Monday, June 25, 2018

FAO Schwarz Mystery House Project

Oh boy...everyone needs a project and one landed in my lap this week!  I get an email once a week of local Estate Sales, and I have to admit, I don't pay very much attention to it.  Every now and then I will open the email and look through the photos hoping to find an antique dollhouse or doll and very rarely do I find all.  I usually just get super depressed wondering what will happen to all my things someday and delete the email.  Well...not this time!

This time as I paged through hundreds of photos (235 to be exact), my eyes caught an old jukebox.  The jukebox was cool, it was round and I had never seen one like it and I actually stopped my scrolling to look at it.  As I moved on to the next photo, that tiny corner of my brain that all us doll and dollhouse collectors possess, cried out.."Wait...go back!"  Well...sure enough...a corner of a doll house was just visible next to the jukebox.

And not just any doll house but what looked like an 1890's FAO Schwarz Mystery House!  I thought this was highly unlikely, you just don't find these kinds of things in the garage of a tract house in Southern California.  But I now searched all remaining photos until I found more pics of it.   Yep...there were painted floors. Yep...there was chamfered "tramp art" trim.  OMG!  It had to be a Mystery House.

Ok, now just be the first person to get there and buy it.  Easier said then done.  I got to the sale early, I waited in the sun (with a hat and water and a tape measure...would this thing fit in my car?).  I was number 20 in line.  The sale team opened the garage door, which would be our entry point once they let us in.  And there it was...the very first thing in the garage...right at the front.  My heart sank.  I would not be anywhere near close enough to get my hands on the tag first.  But I waited with my heart pounding and spent the time getting a good look at the house.

It was in bad shape, as I had seen in the photos.  But the front panels were all there.   They had not been in the photos online so I wasn't sure if they were there.  I had made up my mind I would buy it anyway but I really hoped the panels would be there.  I also hoped the window trim and interior doors would be there too.  The painted floors were in good shape and the structure seemed to be good.

The sale opened a bit early and people went running past the dollhouse to get at the jewelry and collectible pottery and I was at the dollhouse in seconds with the tag in my hand!   I was able to make a deal as there were two dollhouses and I only wanted one.  I quickly paid and then spent the rest of my time searching the garage to try to find the window trim pieces etc.  Along the way I met a kindred spirit who had also seen the house online and knew what it was.   She arrived later than I did but was able to get the other house...a small 1930s Gottschalk with original papers in very good condition. 

No window trim pieces, doors or windows turned up.  I met some of the family members and gave them my number and they said they would ask their mom if she still had the missing trims.

Then I tried to put it in my car.  I had measured and thought I could tilt the house sideways to fit it in my hatchback, but the width of the base was just a little too inch too much.  Sigh.  I stared at the house for a long time.  I could leave it there for a few days and come back with a truck or van, but the sale was over an hour away from my house and the crowd was pretty rough on things.  A couple of people had tripped over the house running into the garage when the sale opened and I felt overly protective of my find.  The roof was already very loose and disintegrating in places and I suspected I would end up removing parts of it anyway during the restoration process.  The garage was filled with tools for $3 each, so I added a few more items to my purchase and sat on the curb with my house and "very" slowly and carefully took the roof off.  It fit in the car with no trouble after that and off I went.

Why do I feel like the adventure is just beginning?  I am excited!!

(Note that the panels are just leaning against the house in this photo and 2 of them are upside down but they wouldn't stay in place for the quick photo right side up)