The great American dreamhouse Dad built escape for his daughter that's envy of the neighborhood.

September 09, 1996

WEEKEND CARPENTERS and home-repair wannabees who aspire to convert basements to rec rooms, remodel kitchens or craft floor-to-ceiling entertainment centers were likely green with envy after seeing photos in The Sun for Anne Arundel last Friday of the playhouse Frank Martin built for his 5-year-old daughter, Lauren.

Replete with amenities such as insulation, stained glass windows, a Dutch door, tile floor, window flower boxes and two electrical outlets, this is one dream of a playhouse.

In building his daughter's miniature haven, the 37-year-old Mr. Martin may have been fulfilling his own childhood wish. Most children -- and many adults -- have fantasies about creating a secure, private place. A fort. A treehouse. A clubhouse. These are special haunts where we can retreat by ourselves or with our closest buddies to play out all sorts of fairy tales and imaginary games, be it from the Lone Ranger of past generations or the Power Rangers of this one.

For many of us, cardboard boxes or lean-tos were about as fancy as we could manage. Some with handy fathers, or mothers, had more substantial structures, made from scrap lumber and other odds and ends. Only a few kids enjoyed elaborate-looking, professionally-built treehouses or playhouses.

Unlike most of us who have trouble assembling sheds with pre-cut lumber and numbered instructions, Frank Martin began with a big advantage: He's a contractor who makes his living building structures. He could have easily thrown up a playhouse with four walls and a roof in a weekend, but spent several months -- and $2,000 -- working on this project, apparently to the chagrin of some his neighbors who chided him for his late-night hammering.

While most of the material for the project came from local hardware stores, Mr. Martin did commission an Ellicott City company to craft the stained glass. He said he also spent a considerable amount of time locating just the right door latches.

Lauren is likely to spend a lot of time in this special place. She may have to maintain a waiting list for friends -- not to mention the parents of friends -- who want to visit her little "princely purple" palace in Pasadena.

Pub Date: 9/09/96

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