In 1924 my grandfather made a dollhouse for his only daughter, my mother, for her fifth birthday. He used a wooden packing case to build a doll’s house with four rooms, each with a glass window, meticulously crafted wooden stairs, and a bathroom upstairs with a door on tiny hinges. To that was added a pitched roof. This was in Johannesburg.

Over time, the dollhouse was sent by rail to cousins in the Karoo where it resided until I was about five years old. My mother decided it was time for the doll house to ‘come home’, which it did from Aberdeen in the Karoo to the Sheba siding in the then Eastern Transvaal.

While I was at university, my parents moved to live at our farm permanently and the doll house moved to the De Kaap Valley and was played with by all the grandchildren who visited them there.

At last, I had a daughter. So, in due course, we loaded the doll house onto our truck and brought it down to the Eastern Cape. Here it was also well used by my grandchildren.

Then … my daughter had a daughter … and we loaded the doll house onto our truck and took it all the way to Cape Town …

… Not bad for a doll house made from a packing case 98 years ago!


48 thoughts on “THE DOLL HOUSE

  1. What a great (peripatetic) heirloom!



  2. I built one for my first granddaughter from a kit. I had hardly started its construction when my daughter called and said they had bought her one. I stopped work on the kit and stored it in a closet. Several years later, when my second granddaughter (different daughter) got old enough, I finished building it and gave it to her for Christmas. I don’t think that one will last nearly as long as yours did!


  3. What a wonderful house-story! How many ‘house owners’ did your grandfather see? Credit also goes to the family who have all taken such good care of it through the years. I look forward to your post about the 100 year old house. 😀


  4. What a treasure!! A precious heirloom. I always wanted a doll house when I was young. I sort of treat our house as a doll house, at least I did so when I was younger. I love to move furniture around from place to place, room to room. Change out and rearrange knick knacks.


    • With all the girls mentioned in this tale – from my mother to its current ‘owner’ – being only daughters with brothers, rest assured that this house has been used for all sorts of things: a parking garage, housed a rock collection, as a home for dinosaurs … The wonderful thing about it is that it is handmade out of whatever was around at the time 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. He obviously made it well and it is a marvellous heirloom. I hope many more generations get to play with it.


  6. An amazing story and like we often say these days “they don’t build them like they used to” … that usually applies to manufactured items, not items fashioned with love and made from scratch.


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