Spreading holiday cheer in miniature
By ELIZABETH COSIN / Healdsburg Correspondent
Nydia Goode found magic and solace in the little things. Many little things.
She has collected and curated hundreds of diminutive pieces that make up the 10-room dollhouse she displayed at her home for more than 30 years.
Goode recently donated the house and all its furnishings to the Healdsburg Museum and Historical Society, where it is on display as part of a year-long exhibit, “The Seasons of the Dollhouse.”
“It was time,” says Goode, who moved to Healdsburg in 1965 with husband Dale, a well-known vineyard manager. “I just moved to a smaller place, and when I thought of what to do with my little house, I wanted it to be in a place where many people could see it.”
There is a lot to see. Goode spent hours staging the dollhouse inside and out to look as much like a lived-in home as possible.
“I intentionally created it have all the details of a family life,” she says. “I wanted it so you could look inside and imagine a whole life being lived there and then let your imagination take over.”
The detail of Goode’s collection is impressive, from the glass-topped coffee table and upholstered couch and chair set in the living room, the heavy metal kitchen stove and the carved library bookshelf filled with little books, including a teeny, tiny “Harry Potter.”
(Goode, who declined to give her age, is an unabashed Potter fan, and the little girl of the house is on her way to Hogwarts, has an owl, Pippin, her Numbus 2000 and a trunk in the attic.)
The house has working lights, a doorbell that rings, plates with food on them, wardrobes with clothes hanging out of the drawers, and stairs with runners designed by Goode’s friend.
Over the years, she says she has received help from many who have become enchanted with the house, including museum curator Holly Hoods.
“I couldn’t believe how much there was to it,” says Hoods. “We are so very happy to have it here and hope it can be part of the permanent collection.”
Hoods decided to make the dollhouse a centerpiece of this year’s holiday exhibit, which opened in late November and runs through Jan. 13. “Magical Toyland” includes miniatures, dolls, toys, a Victorian Era child’s bedroom on Christmas Eve and other collectible toys and games.
But even after the exhibit closes, Goode’s wondrous dollhouse will remain on display. To enhance its lived-in feel, Goode makes changes according to the season. For Christmas, there’s snow on the ground and a decorated tree outside. Inside, the stockings hang in the fireplace. On Halloween, she adds a lighted pumpkin, and in summer she replaces the snow with lush grass.
“I found myself getting lost in the collection,” she says. “It’s like stepping into another world.”
Which is exactly the point for Goode, who first fell in love with the idea of a dollhouse as a 4-year-old growing up in Bakersfield. Her mother took her to see a touring show that featured “Fairy Castle,” an elaborate miniature house silent film star Colleen Moore created in the 1930s and donated to Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry.
Goode remembers feeling carried away by the magic of the intricately decorated rooms filled with tiny objects.
Hoods is also a devotee of Moore’s dollhouse, growing up outside Chicago and visiting it at the museum.
“I was entranced by the amazing miniature world, even though I was not a huge doll fan,” says Hoods. “I never forgot it. I would love for the Healdsburg Museum to be able to create those kind of memories for local kids.”
Goode shares the feeling, rediscovering it in her own magic “fairy” house, which has served as a place of fantasy and even catharsis.
“I’ve turned to it many, many times when I’ve had trouble in my life,” she says. “I could come and sit by the house, look inside and imagine a whole other world that existed that was far away from sadness. I could let my cares go.”
And, Goode says, if the dollhouse takes even one person to that same, magical place, it will be worth everything she put into it.
“I hope when people see it, they see something special in their own imagination,” she says. “I want it to be what it has been for me — (a place) to go wherever your heart wants to go.”