Dating minton plates
Gretchen's son found me on the Internet when he read my comments on this site recounting my introduction to Gretchen's inspiring collection back in 1976.
I had corresponded with Gretchen during the last years of her life and I knew she had parted with most of her collection, but I was surprised to learn from her son that she had kept one house and it had been gathering dust in his basement since her death in 2011.
The day after Christmas, my husband and I drove up to Sturbridge, Massachusetts for dinner at the Publick House and the next day we journeyed on to her son's house outside Worcester.
The house was still completely furnished but had been much jostled since its move from Gretchen's last home in New Canaan, CT.
The ground floor masonry was molded from plaster and then painted while the upper floors feature applied half-timbering and textured paint that started out as white and had turned yellow over time.
The interior is as interesting and richly detailed as the exterior.
The house was in his basement and it was indeed the dollhouse from Gretchen's kitchen: a substantial mock-Tudor suburban house that replicated Gretchen's childhood home in Pittsburgh and still populated by the miniature mouse family Gretchen had dressed herself.
She built the shell with the architectural details while Gretchen added the wallpapers and lace curtains and filled with house with a mix of artisan and commercial furniture and accessories.
The loosening of several window shutters demonstrated the degree to which the exterior painted surfaces had been yellowed. The house is three stories tall and it sat on a large base with a four inch high foundation where bulky wiring terminated.
The foundation plantings were made from over-scaled plastic faux greenery hot-glued into the base.
She often added her own embellishments to the commercial items.
Gretchen had sold all her other houses by the early 2000's (I knew her Howard Hartmann colonial house had been sold to Jane Haskell) but Gretchen kept this one because it was so deeply personal.