Dr. Michael Freeman and his wife, Lois certainly know how to collect on a grand scale! More than 80 dollhouses (most of them antiques) reside in Lois' collection. Her houses and their furniture and accessories have been featured in several books (Dian Zillner - Antique and Collectible Dollhouses and Their Furnishings; and Toy Buildings), but by far the crown jewel is the one-of-a-kind castle which has been part of her collection for the past 10 years.
The 9-foot castle was designed and created by Elaine Diehl, and inspired by the fantasy castle in Tennyson's Lady of the Lake. The castle took 13 years to create, with a year spent on creating the faux granite stonework alone! Made from papier-mache and then hand carved to resemble real granite, all sides of the castle are finished. There are a number of exterior walls that are hinged to allow access for viewing.
The castle made the long trip from Colorado to New York in 1996, where it was reassembled by Lois and Elaine. Lois then began the process of upgrading and repairing many areas of the interior. In addition to restoring and upgrading wall coverings and furniture pieces, Lois added a number of unique pieces, including an antique desk, an antique braided rug, toys, and a family of dolls.
From the copper roof to the faux granite foundation, the castle contains a large variety of features more commonly found in a full-sized upscale home. Marbleized bathrooms, parquet floors, an electric elevator and gold gilt trim are among the unique features of the castle.
The 29 rooms, 10 adjoining areas, staircases, hallways and numerous terraces are all decorated with the finest miniatures from a multitude of artisans. There are pieces made by Pete Aquisto, Mary McGrath, Frank Ballestreiri and Vince Stapleton.
The entrance level contains a grand hall with staircase, a chapel, country kitchen, complete with a French Chef (is this where LePetit Chef has gone?) and a rock-walled wine cellar, and a Dalmation made by Kingdom Critters at the entry welcomes visitors. A weary cleaning lady (a Marsha Blackstrom original) gazes out the front door.
Take the grand staircase to the second level (or the elevator if you prefer) and you will find a formal living room, dining room, butler's pantry (which naturally contains a working dumb-waiter), music room and library! The library is well-lit with working chandeliers and overhead lights, floor to ceiling bookshelves line the walls, art and artifacts line the walls above in the gallery, a game table and pianoforte are set nearby and the family purebred pooch stands ready to greet visitors.
On the third floor you will find the master bedroom, sitting room, and powder room, along with the Oriental bedroom, a little girl's bedroom and several marble bathrooms. No detail has been left undone - from the magnificent oil painting above the master bathroom tub, to the rag doll toys perched on the ottoman in the little girl's room. A puppet theatre and toy robot are on display as well. Dr. Freeman (a toy inventor) is the creator of Kasey the Kinderbot toy robot (the full-sized version), so Lois was thrilled to find the toy reproduced in miniature for Fisher Price's Loving Family Dollhouse Line.
One floor above you will find the men's smoking room, trophy room, and the boy's bedroom. Animal head trophies line the walls of the trophy room, gun cases with tiny guns and tinier bullets are on display. A young boy's imagination takes flight planning the places he'll see with the walls of his room papered with a world map - a armed silent sentry stands guard near the doorway to protect him should those flights of fancy include monsters and dragons!
Still further above, many a grand event must have been held in the Victorian ballroom. A domed ceiling, pearlized floor and bar are among the amenities of the ballroom. There is, of course, a musician's balcony and a lounge for the ladies to rest their delicate feet over the course of the evening's festivities.
Finally, climb the winding staircase from the ladies lounge to the Wizard's Tower and Observatory, whose ceiling is decorated with the signs of the zodiac.
Those lucky enough to live or visit the Nassau County Museum of Art on Long Island, New York can view the Castle in person. The Tee Ridder Miniature Museum is located at 15 Museum Drive, Roslyn, NY.