Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The toy soldier studio - Summer 2018

Many years ago I visited Greenfield Village in Dearborn Michigan.  The Village, a crazy-remarkable and odd place, the brainchild of Henry Ford, is an eclectic collection of not quite a hundred historic buildings spanning 300 years of American history.  All of them are in the context of a small town, laid out on streets, avenues, and alleys; there is even a steam-powered riverboat and locomotive that take visitors around the village.  I can only compare it to "Mainstreet USA" at Disneyland, with the exception that all of the buildings are real and genuinely historic.  

Ford spared no expense in locating, buying, and transporting entire buildings to the village; and the buildings are remarkable;  An Illinois courthouse where a young Abraham Lincoln practiced law, the Wright brothers home and workshop, the building in which Henry Ford assembled his first automobile, the home of Stephen Foster, and the entire complex of Thomas Edison's Menlo Park laboratories and workshops.  

My favorite building is tiny, unassuming, and definitely cute; it is the garden office of Luther Burbank (look it up on Google).  It is an utterly charming little building...less a house and more an ornate, small, outbuilding, that is appointed in the manner of a typical office of the era.  I was nearly enthralled with it; and I really coveted it.

Jump ahead to 2006 when I bought my charming little house here in Boonsboro.  In the back yard was a small, unassuming shed, that captured my imagination even before the ink was dry on the mortgage.

It was a commercially made shed with nice windows, a steel door and a tight roof.  Although the previous owner had removed most of a wall with a sawz-all to accommodate his motorcycles.

The inside was bare studs, festooned with spider webs and dead bugs.

I covered the opened wall, and let my plans percolate while I attended to other homeowner things.

Finally in 2009, I found myself with time on my hands and a hankering for a big project.  With hammer and a pocket full of nails (and a complete woodshop) and the memory of Burbank's field office I began my work.

The first thing I did was to replace the missing wall, and run electricity to it.

I't been an ongoing project over the years, making little improvements and fine-tuning all along the way, and here in the summer of 2018, except for some painting...I think it's done.

And here it is, the Toy Soldiers Forever! toy soldier studio.

The most recent additions were the shutters and geraniums.

Door guards include a hessian flanked by two, large, cast-iron cannons.

Please accept my invitation to come in and take a look.

Carpet, wallboard, paint, tracklights, and wainscoting, got it looking very civilized.  Then came bookcases (salvaged from a Border's Bookstore remodel) and a diorama table at the far end.

I finally found a permanent home for the Frederick Ray Civil War soldier prints that I've had since my 1962 trip to Gettysburg as a nine-year-old.

Continuing the nine-year-old boy theme includes a collection of nearly all of the Scott-Forseman readers that got me through kindergarten (Dick, Jane, Sally, Spot, and Puff) to eighth grade at my rural three-room school house in Burt Michigan.

The diorama table has seen a lot of action.

The studio also made space for my skull collection.

Replica Civil War small-arms crates that I make in my shop...

are chock-full of toy soldiers (mostly plastics).

I think I captured some of the spirit of Luther Burbank's office in that this is a particularly cozy place to read, listen to the radio, and - of course - play with toy soldiers.

Thank you Luther Burbank for the inspiration, and a wonderful place to...

Soldier on!



Tomo said...

Congratulations on your finished project! It looks wonderful with all the furnishings and the collection in place.


tradgardmastare said...

Thank you so much for letting us look around your amazing house.

Tim Gow said...

I don’t think I’ll ever tire of seeing photos of your toy soldier shed. Many thanks for posting!

Mark, Man of TIN said...

What a fantastic studio, Mannie! I wish you many happy games and hours there.

Quantrilltoy said...

It looks very cosy and stylish! The diorama display is very effective.

Archduke Piccolo said...

Well, of course I'm all jealous and stuff. Probably shouldn't be. But that shed looks just charming.

Scott B. Lesch said...

A bit O' paradise.

Terranova47 said...


Warhorseminiatures.com said...

This is one thing I would like to do. When I retire and we move I am going to look for a house that has a detached garage that has a studio apartment or some type of room that I can turn into my mancave. Thanks for sharing, Mike.

Brian Carrick said...

That's a great space you've created there Mannie, what make is the big German howitzer on the bottom shelf?

Tank and AFV Blogger said...

Hi Mannie, this is Tom S, formerly of GRIID. I'd like to catch up with you regarding military history stuff, please contact me through tanksonthebrain@gmail.org. I have a blog and youtube channel on the topics of armored warfare (tanksandAFVnews.com) and would love to learn more about any of the helmets or other artifacts you have in your collection related to armored vehicle history. I hope you are doing well and hope to hear from you.

Old Silly said...

Mannie, that's absolutely fantastic, terrific work!


Old Silly said...

Fab, Mannie, just fantastic!