Curious about what the dollhouse on display at the Mathias Ham House looks like from the front?

Dollhouses have a way of bringing people together. Take this example from the 1880s, originally played with and passed through generations of the Graves Family of Dubuque, it is now a crowd favorite on display at the Mathias Ham House.

Lucy Graves, a fashionable socialite and married to the wealthy businessman, mayor, and state senator Julius Kingman Graves, had this dollhouse built in 1883 for their daughter Marjorie. Its Second Empire Style was popular in Dubuque and in Europe where Lucy and Julius enjoyed traveling. Inspired by their travels they even furnished the dollhouse with miniatures purchased in Paris! Young Marjorie likely played with it along with her older sisters at their parent’s house on 25 Fenelon Street, near the top of the Third Street Elevator. When the children married and moved away in the early 1900s, the Graves’ house was torn down and the dollhouse given to the little girl next door, Mary Tredway, who passed it down to her own children. Even though members of the Graves family moved from the Dubuque area, the dollhouse returned to Lucy and Julius’ great-grandson whose children played with it until donating it to the Mathias Ham House. 

But wait, the dollhouse brought members of the Graves Family together again. Although she no longer lived in Iowa, Marjorie’s daughter saw the dollhouse on display and noticed it had lost its original Parisian furnishings over the years. As a tribute to her mother, she received special permission from museum staff to refurbish the dollhouse. It became a family project, combining generations of the Graves family as her own children and husband helped her and she used fabric scraps from Lucy and Marjorie’s clothes for some of the decoration. Now the dollhouse is featured at the Ham House in the upstairs girl’s room, sitting among other toys played with by the Graves children, as a reminder how play can bring people and generations together.