Dollhouse sale to buoy library

MOUNT DESERT — In 1888, $21,000 would have been more than enough to buy the finest farm in the village of Somesville.

Now, the family that owns a large, fully furnished dollhouse built that year is hoping someone will pay that much for it so they can donate the proceeds to the Somesville Library.

A handyman who worked for the Greenough family in Massachusetts made the dollhouse for 5-year-old Ruth Greenough. When the family moved to Somesville sometime later, the dollhouse came with them.

“Every time their friends would travel, and some of them traveled to Europe a lot, they would bring back something to furnish the dollhouse,” said Jean Fernald, whose daughter, Lauri, played with it as a young girl.

When Lauri was 10, she brought home several shoeboxes filled with items from the dollhouse, but her mother told her she couldn’t keep them. Fernald had been told that the Greenoughs planned to give the dollhouse and its contents to a museum in Boston.

“Then Nancy Greenough called me and said she wanted Lauri to have it because she knew Lauri loved it,” Fernald said. “So, we’ve had it for more than 40 years.”

In 2009, the Fernalds loaned the dollhouse to the Mount Desert Island Historical Society’s Somesville Historical Museum where it was displayed for a time. When the museum planned to put it in storage, the family retrieved it. They weren’t sure what they were going to do with it, but finally decided to sell it to benefit the library.

A couple of weeks ago, Lauri Fernald took the dollhouse to Washing Baby Elephants, a gifts, collectibles and antiques store on Main Street in Ellsworth owned by her friend Wendy Preston-Ward.

Preston-Ward said she loves all of the wonderfully detailed miniature furniture, appliances and decorative items in the dollhouse.

“The little violin in the violin case on top of the piano is adorable,” she said. “There’s a straw hat on the bedpost, and the coal scuttle has little chunks of coal in it. The father has his umbrella stand and slippers and even a little cigar and cigar snipper.”

Jean Fernald said that even though the dollhouse has been in her family for four decades, she still finds it fascinating.

“Every time you look at it you see something new,” she said.

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]