After winding your way up a crooked stone path to the house, a behemoth Dutch door that opens half and half hints at the whimsical nature of the house. Although it has since been restored, it is the original door installed when the house was built and it weighs a country ton. “It makes a statement,” Jane says. She notes that Walt Disney certainly thought so—he copied this door for the entrance to Cinderella’s famous castle in Disneyland after visiting the playhouse in the 1930s. Disney was a friend of Herbert Kalmus, the creator of Technicolor, who had a Centerville mansion right up the street.
The fabled door opens to the great room, the heart of the playhouse. “The focus was the stage,” says Jane, pointing out a floor-to-ceiling canvas curtain depicting Pierott, Pierrette, and Harlequin above the stage. This still vibrant work of art was painted by Charles Basing, an artist known for painting the ceiling of Manhattan’s Grand Central Station.
In the early 1920s, Margaret Hamilton collaborated with Tommy Hunt (no relation to the famous Peter Hunt) to design the three-room playhouse and some of the artwork for the house. “Every detail was really thought out,” Jane says, pointing out the overall layout of the house. “The reason the great room was built on this side of the house is that, come afternoon, it gets very dark in here. It’s perfect for performances.” The great room’s fabulous lighting is cast from handcrafted wall sconces, and a fanciful chandelier that creates “fabulous shadows,” Jane says. She explains that the house has great acoustics because of its cathedral ceiling, noting, “You can hear a whisper upstairs.”
The only upstairs that existed for a long time was a small balcony overlooking the great room accessible only by ladder. The balcony—still in superb condition—features four canvas panels painted by Tommy Hunt depicting the fairy tales of St. George and the Dragon, Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood, and Hansel and Gretel. “They have retained the color so beautifully,” Jane says of the panels. “We can’t understand how they have weathered so well.”
Befitting a house that feels like a timeless kingdom out of a Harry Potter movie, the great room features original wood parquet flooring and a raised hearth in front of a beautiful fireplace. The intricate tile surround capturing fairy tale characters was hand-painted by Tommy’s wife, Dorothy “D” Hunt, and is as vivid today as it was in the early 1920s. Dorothy Hunt also painted the elegant wall sconces that include ceramic plates depicting young Dan’s mother and father as fairytale figures. Lester Boronda made all the iron and metalwork, including the lanterns and hinges.
- Posted in Art