Museum Corner—January 2015
A Treasured dollhouse
By Becky Buher
Children love to play house and having a dollhouse is part of the joy of childhood. Remembering the fun you had playing with a dollhouse can also be fun for adults. It can even inspire someone to create a dollhouse that can be enjoyed by both children and adults. On display ithrough February (2015) is a beautiful dollhouse completed by Esther Ginger sometime in the 1970s.
But for the sound of an auction gavel, Esther might never have found the impetus for her dollhouse. The large dollhouse came to Bedford by way of Paris (Illinois that is), The dollhouse is two story, with six rooms, a bath and center hallway. It is colonial style with four, two-story columns in front. It measures 33 1/2 inches square by 32 inches high.
Esther was living in Paris, Ill., in 1971 when she and her landlady decided to attend a nearby auction. Esther was walking around the yard when she saw a big barrel behind the garage. She picked up an item from the barrel, and her hands got so dirty that she walked away. When the auction bidders moved to the same back yard, she saw a woman going through the barrel. Esther then saw that it contained doll furniture.
When the barrel came up for bid, the other woman started bidding. Esther decided, she too, wanted the doll furniture. Back and forth, up and up, Esther and the woman bid. Esther’s husband, John, kept giving her a thump on her hip, but Esther continued to bid and secured the last bid. She didn’t remember later how much she bid, but said it couldn’t have been too much because she and John didn’t have any money to spare.
She was really happy when she got home and saw all the doll furniture that she had purchased. There was red living room furniture, a grand piano, twin beds in pale lavender, a dining room set in light green, a green kitchen stove, a kitchen table, two chairs, a refrigerator, beige kitchen cabinets and many more items.
When her granddaughters, Debora and Kimberly visited, she let them play with the furniture. The girls would create room scenes using the doll furniture and played with them on Esther’s living room end-tables.
As you can imagine, Esther decided she wanted a real dollhouse for the furniture. Her brother, Bob, purchased a book at a Bedford library book sale titled, “Making Useful Things of Wood,” and he found the book contained plans for a colonial dollhouse. Then Esther found a man who said he would use the book’s plans and try to build the dollhouse at a cost of $50. He did, and Esther received it in 1973.
She set about decorating the dollhouse, and her father-in-law urged her to work on it every day. She ordered miniature wallpaper from California, made needlepoint rugs for the floors, and conscientiously created a lovely dollhouse.
The dollhouse was moved to Lawrence County in 1985 when Esther and her husband John moved to be near their daughter, Mrs. Ron (Nancy) Ritter and her family. Esther had grown up in the Bedford area, and her father, Charles Bickenheuser, had helped build McMillan Stone Mill.
She lived in this area until her death on Feb. 12, 2007. John generously donated the treasured dollhouse to the museum so it could be preserved and enjoyed by people in the community. John died June 11, 2012. Both Esther and John Ginger are buried at Bedford’s Green Hill Cemetery.