See It: Colleen Moore Fairy Castle at MSI Chicago

BY: Shannon Grilli | Jun 18, 2018

Photo courtesy of Instagram user jasonldooley

Like a lot of kids, I had a dollhouse when I was young. And like a lot of kids (at least the ones I was hanging out with), that dollhouse was... kind of a dump.

Seriously. Dollhouses are meant to be tiny dream houses, but I don't know a single kid who didn't have a half-finished one languishing in a corner, covered in PB&J stains, waiting for a well-meaning dad or uncle to finally complete its construction. Perhaps that's why I've always been fascinated by the Colleen Moore Fairy Castle dollhouse at the Museum of Science and Industry Chicago. Far from just a dream house, it's a lavish and fantastical masterpiece that's so extravagant, it puts not just other dollhouses, but real castles to shame.

 

 

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Moore, a silent film star from the 1920s, had always had a passion for dollhouses and miniatures and the idea for the Fairy Castle was born from her desire to have a master dollhouse to house her collection. But as her friends and acquaintances began to contribute pieces to the project, the idea grew into something much more.

 

 

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In order to craft the most stunning dollhouse the world had ever seen, Moore turned to her famous friends for help: MGM set designer Horace Jackson designed the castle's exterior, while Art director Harold Grieve came on as an interior design consultant. Famous artists painted murals on its walls. Celebrated authors contributed pint-sized versions of their most-famous works, each one written by hand. Chinese artisans constructed floors from real jade and rose quartz. Electricians ensured the jewel-encrusted chandeliers had real, working lights. And famed Italian jeweler Guglielmo Cini outfitted rooms with personal pieces such as a real silver and fox-fur hairbrush and the world's smallest diamond ring.

 

 

Over the top? Yes, and that's just the beginning. Check out our by-the-numbers breakdown to learn more about some of the Colleen Moore Fairy Castle's most impressive features and stats.

1/150,000 oz.: the weight of the smallest of the chairs of the three bears, which are made out of pinheads.

1/4": the size of the glass slippers that await Cinderella in the great hall.

1 pistol that actually shoots. It rests on an enameled table in the great hall.

2 knights in armor stand guard in the great hall. They were originally owned by silent film actor Rudolph Valentino.

5: the number of real Venetian tapestries that were hand-made for the castle's dining room. The individual stitches are so small, they must be viewed under a magnifying glass.

 

 

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7: the number of years it took the castle's 700 artisans to complete its construction.

12 pieces of original artwork, including a painting of Mickey and Minnie Mouse dressed as the King and Queen of Hearts. The painting was given to Moore by Walt Disney himself.

100 real, handwritten books signed by famous authors fill the library shelves. The collection includes John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, Agatha Christie's At Bertram's Hotel, and Willa Cather's Shadow on the Rock.

200: the number of individual pieces that make up the castle exterior.

500: the age of the hand-carved, amber vases that flank the doorway of Cinderella's drawing room. The vases are from the collection of the Dowager Empress of China. 500 is also the age of the gold Japanese chest in the Prince's bathroom.

 

 

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1,500: the total number of miniatures in the castle's interior. Some of the most impressive pieces are a replica of the English throne at Westminster Abbey, a white bear-skin rug made from ermine and mouse teeth, a wash basin made of real gold and jewels, and a silver bathtub with real running water.

1840: the year the chapel's Bible was printed. Printed from real type, it is the smallest Bible in the world.

1949: the year the dollhouse took up residence in the Museum of Science and Industry.

 

 

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4,000: the real age of the statues of Isis that decorate a table in the Great Hall. This room holds at least four other tiny artifacts that are more than 1,000 years old.

$50,000: the cost of just one of the castle's chandeliers, which features jewels provided by a well-known Beverly Hills jeweler.

$500,000 was the original cost of the dollhouse when it was completed.

$7,000,000: the estimated worth of the dollhouse today.

 

 

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