Tudor Place: The Secret Dollhouse Exhibit Open Now

There is some exciting news to share! A new Tasha Tudor-themed display is now open for viewing. The de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg introduced two brand-new exhibits during the Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival in April and visitors can now make an appointment online to see the exhibits.

This original artwork from the 1981 A Child’s Garden of Verses is displayed in the exhibit.

The first exhibit, Behind the Prize: Artists of the Ezra Jack Keats Award Committee features the work of EJK Award committee members along with some of Keats’ original artwork. The exhibit will be on display through mid- to late August 2023.

In a separate room but next door to the “Behind the Prize” display area, Tudor Place: The Secret Dollhouse is a delightful exhibit dedicated to the work of Tasha Tudor. At one end of the cozy space, a large four-room dollhouse is on view. The two-story dollhouse is reminiscent of Tasha’s dollhouse that was displayed in Colonial Williamsburg. The dollhouse, with a parlor and kitchen on the first floor and a library and bedroom on the upper floor, measures 78” high, 58” wide and 24” deep.

Image courtesy of the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection

Both the dollhouse and all its furnishings were previously owned by Tasha’s former business partner Harry Davis. He has stated that Tudor Place was designed by him in 1999 to imitate Tasha Tudor’s first adult residence, a townhouse on Boston’s Beacon Hill. Various residents of Richmond, Virginia built, painted, plastered, wallpapered and lighted the dollhouse. A selection of Tasha’s original artwork is framed and mounted on the walls of the exhibit room. Two antique dresses said to be once owned by Tasha are attractively displayed near the room’s entrance. Limited seating is available in the softly lighted exhibit room for visitors to enjoy the display while sitting.

Each room is filled with treasures of every kind. In the kitchen, Natasha Burgess, a 14.5” doll made by Tasha and Martha Thompson, stands next to the table covered with cooking implements. She is wearing a white, gigot-sleeved blouse pinned at the neck with a tiny Florentine oval brooch reminiscent of one favored by Tasha. Natasha’s full, solid-color long skirt features an overlaid floral design.

Image courtesy of Jerry Knazek

A black “Little Fanny” cast-iron cook stove is installed along the kitchen’s back wall and the sink, made by Tasha’s son Seth Tudor, is similar in design to Tasha’s own sink in Corgi Cottage. A rug braided by Tasha herself covers the floor. There are many pieces of miniature copperware along with tiny crocks and dinnerware.

In the bedroom, a four-poster canopy bed made by Seth is covered with lace-edged material. A red-paint highboy, a large hanging shelf plus a ladderback side chair, all built by Seth, are also in the room.

The parlor features an exquisite Oriental rug, with 1,000 hand-tied knots per square inch. A harp made by Harry W. Smith, the famous miniaturist, stands against the window. A corner cupboard made by Seth holds many pieces of blue-and-white porcelain.

In the library there are two ceiling-to-floor bookcases along with two desks made by Seth. An open, diminutive black box with enameled flowers sits upon the “partner’s desk” and placed inside is a miniature letter from Leslie Linder, Beatrix Potter’s biographer, whom Tasha met while in England during the late 1950s. The letter is addressed to Tasha’s doll Melissa Dove Crane.

Three miniature bronze rabbits, once owned by Beatrix Potter, are nearby the box. According to the exhibition’s panel text, the rabbits and the box were gifts from Tasha to Harry Davis. The text also states that Tasha gifted other furnishings in the dollhouse to Harry Davis and she created miniature paintings which are displayed on the walls of the rooms.

This original illustration for Little Women is also displayed.

In addition to the dollhouse’s original art created by Tasha, there are thirteen framed pieces of her work in watercolor, pencil, charcoal, and pastels displayed in the exhibit room.

The originals include a chapter-heading illustration for Little Women, a partial Nativity scene from A Book of Christmas, the “To Any Reader” illustration from the 1981 edition of A Child’s Garden of Verses, the front-cover design of the Easter at the White House 1988 booklet, plus four originals for prints issued by Jenny Wren Press during the late 1980s and early 1990s: the 50th Anniversary celebration of the publication of Pumpkin Moonshine, “Thy Love” Valentine calendar, “Miss Meggie Corgi” paper-doll set, Tasha’s early “The Hen Yard” and a pencil preliminary drawing of a mother-and-children scene adapted for a Crummles porcelain lidded box.

The original artwork for Tasha’s 1988 cover for the Easter at the White House booklet is on display.

In addition to the artwork above, four unpublished originals are on display including a highly detailed watercolor featuring a female Ruby-throated hummingbird sitting upon her nest, with a border of Eastern red columbine and ferns. Also in the painting are corner vignettes depicting happy moments for both children and adults. A fifth vignette of children dancing together with playful corgis completes the design. Other unpublished works in the exhibit room feature a lavishly decorated watercolor of a young lady and gentleman in early 19th-century dress, a charcoal drawing of a boy and bird, plus a pastel portrait of the corgi puppy named “Abegail”.

The University of Southern Mississippi’s McCain Library and Archives, located on its Hattiesburg campus and home of the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection, one of North America’s leading research centers in the field of children’s literature.

Currently, the “Tudor Place” dollhouse exhibition does not have a set closing date and is currently scheduled to be available for viewing at least through early 2024. Both exhibit rooms will be open by appointment only, 9 AM to 4 PM Mondays through Fridays and visits are limited to groups of ten or less.

By Jeanette Chandler Knazek

Society member and frequent Journal of the Tasha Tudor Society contributor, Jeanette had the opportunity to view the exhibit recently and is looking forward to seeing it again later this year.