a dream is a wish your heart makes.

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the holy grail for me, as a great admirer of fairy houses, i finally had the chance to see

colleen moore’s dream come true and breathtaking fairy castle 

at the museum of science and industry in chicago

Silent film star Colleen Moore was always fascinated by dolls and doll houses. She owned several elaborate doll houses as a child, but later in life her father, Charles Morrison, suggested that she should pursue her passion for miniatures and doll houses by creating the “doll house” of her dreams. Her position as a popular actress in Hollywood gave her the resources to produce a miniature home of fantastic proportions. Beginning in 1928, Moore enlisted the help of many talented professionals to help her realize her vision.

Creating the Fairy Castle

Horace Jackson, an architect and set designer who worked for First National Studios, created the floor plan and layout of the castle with the basic idea that “the architecture must have no sense of reality. We must invent a structure that is everybody’s conception of an enchanted castle.

Moore also enlisted the help of art director and interior designer Harold Grieve. Grieve had designed the interiors for Moore’s actual mansion, so he was a natural to create the interiors of her fantasy castle.

By 1935, approximately 100 people worked on the Fairy Castle. The price tag for this 8’7″ x 8’2″ x 7’7″ foot palace, containing more than 1,500 miniatures, was nearly $500,000.

On Tour

In 1935 Colleen Moore’s child-like fascination with her Fairy Castle was transformed by the Great Depression into a passion for helping children. She organized a national tour of the Fairy Castle to raise money for children’s charities. The tour stopped in most major cities of the United States and was often exhibited in the toy departments of prominent department stores. A brochure from The Fair in Chicago promotes it: “A museum in itself—it awaits you—starting November 15th in our Eighth Floor Toyland. You will want to see it again and again.” The tour was a huge success and raised more than $650,000 between 1935 and 1939.

Coming “Home” to the Museum

In 1949 Major Lenox Lohr, director of the Museum of Science and Industry, convinced Colleen Moore to have the Fairy Castle make one final journey. She described their encounter as follows: “When I was seated next to Major Lohr at a dinner recently in the directors’ coach at the Chicago Railroad fair, he mentioned the doll house while we were having soup, and by the time dessert was served, he had the doll house!”

 Millions of guests have enjoyed their visit to the castle since it first arrived at the Museum, and it remains a timeless reminder of the imagination, ingenuity and craftsmanship of cultures and artisans all over the world.

“a dream Is a wish your heart makes”

– song written and composed by Mack David, Al Hoffman and Jerry Livingston 

for the Walt Disney film Cinderella (1950).

55 responses »

  1. When I was a small child (and okay–a not-so-small one!) visiting our Chicago relatives, we always went to the Museum of Science and Industry. While my siblings were flying all over the place to see the trains and hatching chicks, I headed straight for this dollhouse for my fairyland fix. I’d slooooooly circle the house (both levels of ramp, of course) listening to each recording describe the treasures of individual rooms, and then again to imagine myself miraculously shrunk to size to live in the castle (which would, of course, be magically transported to an appropriate fairy setting. Oddly enough, I never imagined sharing it with ANY of my nine siblings…

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I saw Colleen Moore’s fairy castle as a young girl with my family at the museum. I saw it a second time years later. I still have a love of dollhouses – in fact I am currently restoring one. I have written several posts about it on my blog. I thought about Colleen Moore’s fairy castle when I was recently redoing the railings and spindles in my dollhouse. The Fairy castle stairs don’t have railings and spindles because the little fairies don’t need them. It was a huge challenge for me to recreate the railings and spindles in my dollhouse. More than once I thought about leaving them off as Colleen did! Thanks for reminding me about this treasure!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. talk about a labor of love; always fascinated when one person’s passion can bring joy to so many. I’m assuming those 100 people who worked on the house weren’t all together at the same time – otherwise there would be a lot of bumping into each other…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I would have spent hours too at this magic place. My father used to make ‘doll houses, and ‘shops’ for his three daughters (and boys toys for the following son) – they too were created in minute detail and with many moveable items. There was no prize tag, only hours and hours of labour of love ….

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  5. Pingback: a dream is a wish your heart makes. – Just a Piece

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