Dollhouse returning to warm memories

November 26, 1992|By Arthur Hirsch | Arthur Hirsch,Staff Writer

The dollhouse saw its proudest days in the 1950s, when department store shoppers in Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Chicago would crowd around to peek into its six rooms and admire the details: furniture, wallpaper, curtains, books on the shelves, hearth.

Those were the days when the little toy company that could, Richwood Toy, flourished briefly in the Eastport section of Annapolis before it was driven out of business in 1958 by competition from large manufacturers. The dollhouse was packed away, the furniture wrapped and boxed, never to see the light of day for more than 30 years.

Now, as the holiday season unfolds, the dollhouse has returned, its charm intact.

"It's just exciting after all these years," said Frances Bazzell of Annapolis, who has been helping to put the house together at the Barge House Museum, established this year by the Eastport Historical Committee.

Ms. Bazzell worked for Richwood Toy between 1953 and 1957. When Jerry Wood, whose parents, Ida and Richard Wood, had founded the company in 1948, decided to put the dollhouse back together for public display, he asked Ms. Bazzell if she'd help. "When Jerry called me I got so excited. It was such a thrill to be together again," said Ms. Bazzell, who is 67.

She remembers her years at Richwood as a happy time. For awhile she worked at the factory painting brown eyebrows, pink cheeks and red lips on the faces of the company's "Sandra Sue" and "Tina Sue" dolls. Then she switched to the furniture-finishing department.

"It was one of the neatest jobs," said Ms. Bazzell, who went to work for an optometrist after the company closed. "Every day it was just fun."

The two-story, six-room dollhouse, built in 1954, was used to promote Richwood's dolls and doll furniture. It is nearly 4 feet tall, 4 feet wide and 8 feet long and is furnished with everything from end tables to floor lamps.

Ms. Bazzell said the Colonial house traveled to Macy's in New York and to big department stores in other major cities. It was last displayed in 1957, a year before the company closed.

For years the house was stored in pieces in Ida Wood's home in Eastport. When she died in 1990, Jerry Wood helped to clean out her house. He moved the dollhouse and the boxes of tiny furniture from her basement to a boat storage yard in Owings.

Mr. Wood is president and owner of Annapolis Boat Shows Inc. and owns the Annapolis Sailing School. He is out of the country on vacation and could not be reached. But Rick Franke, general manager of the sailing school, said Mr. Wood and others had talked for years about the possibility of putting the dollhouse together for public display, but it was never arranged for lack of an appropriate place.

The Barge House Museum seemed just right, located in a small city-owned building on the Back Creek waterfront, just a few blocks from the site of the old Richwood factory.

Ms. Bazzell, her husband, Carlton, and others have been working on the house for weeks and expect to complete the job by the end of the Thanksgiving weekend.

vTC A reception to open the display is planned at the museum Dec. 5. The exhibit will be open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays in December and January. And the best days of Richwood Toys will be remembered, 35 years later. "It's like your circle is complete," said Ms. Bazzell.

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