Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle arrived in its permanent home at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry in 1949. Sometime before 2014 the castle will undergo preservation, where hundreds of artifacts will be out for public viewing. Visitors will be able to involve themselves with the conservators as the castle is taken apart and each room preserved. Normally the Fairy Castle is displayed behind glass in order for the environment to be controlled to preserve the artifacts for many more generations of museum visitors.
Silent film actress Colleen Moore created the dollhouse, as it was originally called, in the 1930s. Some of the most popular treasures within the house include a painting by Walt Disney, an 1840 bible said to be the tiniest ever written, and statues dating over 2,000 years old. Colleen had been fascinated by dollhouses and as a child owned several elaborate creations. Her father is the one who suggested she create the dollhouse of her dreams, which she began in 1928.
Moore’s dollhouse contained over 1,500 miniatures in an 8’7” x 8’2” x 7’7” foot castle, worth nearly $500,000 at the time. By 1935 almost 100 people were involved in the Moore’s creation. The castle’s entire structure breaks down into 200 pieces, as all the rooms are modular units that can be stored in drawers of specifically designed shipping crates.
The Great Depression caused Colleen to use the Fairy Castle to raise funds for children’s charities. It went on a tour of most major cities in the United States, including exhibitions in New York City’s Macy’s and The Fair in Chicago. Between 1935 and 1939, the successful tour raised over $650,000.
Born Kathleen Morrison in 1899 (although she and her family claimed it was 1902), she was most well-known for her comedic roles in Ella Cinders (1926) and Orchids and Ermine (1927). She changed her name to Colleen Moore in 1916 when her Uncle Walter C. Howey, editor of the Chicago Examiner, decided she needed a professional stage name. He felt “Kathleen Morrison” was too long to be on a marquee and that the perfect number of letters for a name appearing in lights should be twelve.
When told to cry during a scene where she was supposed to be jealous, she thought of Charlie Chaplin. According to the official website dedicated to her life and work, she was quoted as saying, “You know how I love Charlie Chaplin and you know how I hate spotted neckties? Well I thought of Charlie Chaplin wearing spotted neckties and I cried!”
Colleen Moore died on January 25, 1988 at the age of 88.
The Museum of Science and Industry opened to the public in 1933 and claims to be the largest science museum in the Western Hemisphere. Museum hours are 9:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. daily, but closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas day.