You don’t have to be a fan of dollhouses to be enchanted by the Astolat Dollhouse Castle on public display for the first time. As part of the “Holiday Under the Stars” celebration at The Shops at Columbus Circle, this unique exhibit will have you peering into a miniature world that’s been valued and insured at a cool $8.5 million. And while it’s free to see, it’s also going to be touring around the country to raise money for various children’s charities.
A Dollhouse of Riches
While the price-per-square foot of real estate in New York’s Time Warner center is one of the pricier spots in the city, The Astolat Dollhouse Castle makes its own mark in that realm, having been valued and insured at $8.5 million dollars. (That’s more than $2,000 per square inch!) The 9-foot high dollhouse has 29 rooms and 10-thousand miniature pieces inside. Some of those pieces are made with gold and silver, some are rare-like the jewelry within and some items are more than 100 years old-for instance, a book the size of a postage stamp that can really be read. It certainly serves as some inspiration for anyone who wants to figure out how to make better use of their own small spaces!
Building This Grand Dollhouse
According to house “tour guides” on site at The Shops at Columbus Circle and those behind the scenes, it took two days and eight people to curate and re-assemble it here. (Yes, they did work to put it together throughout days and nights.) It weighs between 815 and 890 pounds depending on which furnishings they choose to be placed inside. (In actuality, there many other objects—three times as many– that have been curated than appear in the house currently, but all the others are put in storage, and different choices can be made for furnishings as it moves from spot to spot.)
The dollhouse was the vision of Elaine Diehl, an artist specializing in miniatures. She designed and built it in the 1980’s, but over a period of 13-years. The dollhouse is described as “the most ambitious project of her career” and was assembled after commissioning teams of “fine craftsmen,” carpenters, gold and silversmiths and even glass blowers to help her construct and furnish it. It was explained she’d been inspired by Elaine of Astolat, the heroine in Alfred Lord Tennyson’s Victorian ballad, The Lady of Shalott. That inspiration led to a seven-level dollhouse castle filled with formal rooms, multiple stairways, a library, music room, ballroom and much more. And of course, its more “castle-y” elements include turrets and a Wizard’s tower on top.
A Dollhouse In the Details
As you walk up to the house, don’t be surprised if you see people squinting and staring, pointing and squatting, leaning and jaw-dropping and of course taking photos, as they check out the massive amount of detail that’s been put into what’s inside. The details are so fine I’m sure there are plenty of folks thinking, “Huh, I’d be happy to have that (fill-in-the-blank here with things like piano, Persian rug, antique washing basin, car) …if only they were a little closer to normal size.” Some of the highlights that draw your eyes in include a “working” fireplace, an armory, a flatware set valued at $5,000, multiple hand-painted oil paintings, a washer/dryer, a statue of William Shakespeare and a bar. Children can enjoy the challenge of finding objects they can relate to on a scale even smaller than they are.
What Won’t You Find There?
There’s one thing you won’t find in this dollhouse castle—or many professional dollhouses for that matter. Dolls! There are a number of explanations as to why, but some of the most common include that these miniature fantasy-homes are created by those who want to envision themselves living there, that having dolls included shatters the illusion of how real-to-life everything else looks, and that dollhouses created at this level are simply too valuable to actually play-in!
When and Where
You’ll need to hurry in to see it if you want to see it in New York as it’s only on display until December 8th. It then goes on tour to continue raising awareness to various children’s charities. Donations can be made on the Astolat Dollhouse website that will go to charities—currently Orphans International Worldwide is the group receiving them.). There will be dollhouse furniture auctioned off as well. From here the Astolat Dollhouse Castle guides tell me it’s expected to head out west (to LA or Las Vegas—where it will go first is still tbd?) for its next stop. You can check out where it will appear next on their website.
And while you’re in the Time Warner Center, you can stop and enjoy the view into Central Park while watching the “Holiday Under the Stars” exhibit—a light and music show that accompanies 14-foot stars suspended from the 150-foot ceiling. Then head out to enjoy the park and the streets of New York.