Combination Doll House by Stirn & Lyon
by Susan Hale
I know that my favourite Sunday morning outing, the St. Lawrence Antique Market in Toronto, offers rare and unusual treasures, but I was blown away when I came across this one and I bought it immediately.
The Combination Doll House made by New York firm Stirn & Lyon was patented in 1881.
The houses came unassembled in wood boxes. The box served as the base for the house and the box top became the roof.
The house pictured on the box label was a little more fancy than the actual doll house.
It appears to be marble, situated in a park-like setting on a river.
Elegant ladies gossip outside the iron fence while a little girl joyfully chases her hoop.
On one side of the house is an elegant fountain in a manicured garden with cliffs and trees in the background.
On the other side of the house is a gazebo near beautiful flowers in full bloom and where one can watch the sailboats on the river.
An idyllic setting for a beautiful dollhouse. What child (or adult for that matter) wouldn't want to own this magnificent edifice?
Let's see if what's in the box lives up to the picture.
Here is the box with the foundation blocks lithographed onto it. Someone has added strips from cigar boxes to the bottom (which slides off to become the roof). I am not sure why they are there.
Inside the box we find everything we need to build our beautiful house. Or at least we should. As we shall see I am missing some pieces.
The panels for the exterior of the house have the bricks and window details lithographed on in blue ink. The wood panels are very thin and some have split.
A couple of the panels have the windows taped back on.
We start by turning the box over so that it becomes the base of the house. We insert the dowels of the slotted supports into the holes in the base and slide the panels into them.
Here is the house with the walls up.
This side unfortunately has a piece missing above the lower window.
There was only one side of the steps in the box and no small pieces to actually make the steps, but I am sure I can make replacements as all I have to do is copy the side of steps I have and cut out wood pieces to lie across the supports.
Also missing were the pieces of wood that attach the balcony and the pediment. Again I think I will be able to make substitutes once I study the house to see how they were attached.
Although this seems like a wonderful toy it is quite flimsy and falls apart if you breathe on it. It must have been quite frustrating for the little ones who actually wanted to play with it.
Here is the interior. I don't know why one of the panels has the exterior printed on the inside too. It looks like a mistake to me.
Just for fun I furnished this house with my candy containers. It's not a bad fit. I have added a tobacco felt rug to cover the illustration of the house on the box top.
This is the back of the house.These two pieces of wood were left over and fit perfectly in the back to close it. I am not sure if this is right but it seems to work.
I will leave you with pictures of other Stirn & Lyon buildings that I found on the internet. These kits can still be found at auction occasionally.
This one is just like mine, but has more small pieces.
The East River Suspension Bridge, which we now call the Brooklyn Bridge, opened in 1883 and at that time was the longest suspension bridge in the world.
I'm sure kids wanted their own version and they could get it from Stirn & Lyon.
This is a much larger house but it looks just as flimsy.
This one was once in Flora Gill Jacobs' collection.
Here is the interior.
A Stirn & Lyon Villa. This one looks later than the one above.
Inside the Villa
A Stirn & Lyon Grocery store
Grocery store box
An 1886 postcard advertising Stirn & Lyon.
It must have been a large store. It has three street numbers.
See more of Susan Hale's collection at Susan's Mini Homes here: http://susanshouses.blogspot.ca