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Within the Fairy Castle

January 31, 2011 13 Comments by Regina

For the recent holidays, the Hubs and I visited beautiful Chicago. As we are wont to do, we planned our trip using a Frommers guide. Getting ready to visit the Museum of Science and Industry, I spied a little suggestion by the book’s travel writer:

“I hate to indulge in gender stereotypes, but girls (myself included) love Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle, a lavishly decorated miniature palace filled with priceless treasures (yes, those are real diamonds and pearls in the chandeliers). The castle is hidden on the lower level.”

I’m SO glad I spied those two sentences because it turned out to be a trip highlight. We would have completely missed the exhibition had it not been for that information. Phew! a few times over, let me tell you. Colleen Moore was the most popular and highest paid movie actress during the silent film era. The castle was built during the Great Depression and used the talents of over 700 artisans and craftsmen. It was created to embody fairy tale themes. Made of aluminum, the tallest tower stands at seven feet and the whole castle is nine feet square.? Professionals were used to build and design it — from architects to interior designers to master electricians — and it took seven years to complete. It is magnificent in person.

The Library Entrance with fairytales depicted in the murals. The library contains miniature books, including the smallest Bible in the world.

An oceanic theme within the Library. Love the painted water movement.

Ms. Moore spent about $500,000 to bring the castle’s 14 rooms to life.

It seems an incredible amount now, much less during the Great Depression. It warms my heart that it must have helped the artisans financially.

The Great Hall. Notice the etched glass, the marbled staircase, glazed walls and the decorative painting on the vaulted Gothic ceiling.

Would you like a look at the vaulted ceiling? Well, I’ll oblige you. Actually, it’s a MUST.

To give you a size reference, here is an image of Colleen Moore sitting within the Great Hall, which we just saw above. These images were culled from the wonderful book Within the Fairy Castle: Colleen Moore’s Doll House as put together by the Museum of Science and Industry. The incredible photography is by Karant + Associates. I’m so glad they put together a book with these images (and so many, many more) along with the fascinating history — it would have been so sad for me to have relied on my memories of the castle’s beautiful artworks.

Mural in the Drawing Room.

The Chapel Entrance complete with stained glass windows and plaster relief work.

Oh, yes. An incredible ceiling in the Chapel, of course.

The Prince's Bedroom.

The Princess' Bedroom.

The luxurious silver and crystal bath of the Princess. The water spigots do work and the plumbing throughout uses distilled water to prevent corrosion.

If in Chicago, please do stop at the Museum of Science and Industry to see this exhibit as well as the other incredible ones they have. I’ll continue sharing some of my adventures in Chicago during the coming weeks — what a glorious city!

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  1. Lisa McMillen
    1421 days ago

    That is incredible!!! I can’t imagine painting that tiny! Thanks for sharing!

  2. anna sadler
    1421 days ago

    omg How Gorgeous!!! one more reason we need to come to Chicago! thanks so much for sharing!

  3. Katie
    1420 days ago

    Thanks for sharing! The Castle is absolutely beautiful and the detail and craftsmanship of every room is amazing! How interesting would it be to work in miniature! I have two little boys and they were intrigued! Of course they asked if kids can play “knights” with the castle.

  4. Debbie Viola
    1420 days ago

    Thanks so much for sharing these gorgeous pictures. Although painting on a high ceiling offers its own challenges, I also can’t imagine painting this tiny.

  5. lynne rutter
    1420 days ago

    this is so cool! would it not make a nice maquette for a full sized space

  6. Katie
    1420 days ago

    Hey Regina,

    I shared your link on my facebook page and one of my friends sent me this link for a photographer/diorama artist in New York…pretty amazing! There’s not a lot of decorative painting or murals as in the Fairy Castle, but the “faux” environments she creates on such a small scale are spectacular!

  7. eloise
    1420 days ago

    i keep looking for a like button. i want to put a big heart all over this post. <8 <8 <8

  8. Lesley Anne Kinney
    1420 days ago

    It’s when I see things like this I am thankful for those people who have more money than sense!!!

  9. Lee Gamble
    1420 days ago

    Just wonderful! There used to be a miniature rooms area in the museum years ago too…. I went to the museum’s website and “took the tour” of Colleen Moore’s castle – and the amount of real antiquities and jewels are amazing. What I loved the most though was how she incorporated her mother’s engagement diamond. Regina your posts are as always just fabulous. Thank you!

  10. Sharon Leichsenring
    1420 days ago

    This was a spectacular post. Thank you for sharing. Ditto on Lesley’s comment: thank goodness for people with more money than sense. What a wonderful experience it must have been for all who were involved with this. It’s now on my bucket list.

  11. Monica Arrache
    1419 days ago

    That was magnificent for such a lil thing…………thanks for sharing.

  12. julie
    1020 days ago

    How wonderful! Thanks for posting!

One Trackback

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Regina Garay, Regina Garay. Regina Garay said: I love decorative painting & design. Imagine when I came across the miniature Fairy Castle in @msichicago – a must see! [...]

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