Dollhouse and toy museum to open in Bennington

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BENNINGTON -- The Dollhouse and Toy Museum of Vermont, a new museum intended for children who enjoy playing with dolls and dollhouses -- as well as adults who remember when they themselves did so -- will open in town on Nov. 26.

Although primarily devoted to dollhouses and dolls, the museum will also focus on wide range of childhood activities -- showing how both girls and boys played in the days before computer games and electronic toys.

The museum will be located at 212 Union St., at the corner of Union and Valentine streets, in a small Victorian Era cottage that dates back to the 1860s.

The creator of the museum, Jacqueline Marro, said in supplied material that she hopes that in addition to the permanent collection the museum "will become a place for people in the community to showcase their own collections of toys and dolls." The first of these, as part of the opening, will be the collection of historic black dolls assembled by Theodora (Teddy) Petrelis over the years.

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"We want this to be a place where people can display their own collections for a few months at a time, and thus share them with the people of Bennington," Marro said. "There are a lot of people in the area who have wonderful collections of their own, but have no place to display them."

Another collector who has put things on loan for the opening exhibit is John Carpenter, the owner of E-Z Way Rental, who is displaying a Ringling Brothers circus truck made by an uncle and the ancient baseball glove that his grandfather used as captain of the Bennington High School baseball team in 1910.

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In addition to the collection of doll houses and dolls, the museum will have areas devoted to boy’s toys and a photographic history of Union Street (named for the old Union Academy that once existed at the far east end of it), which was one of the most diverse and historically interesting streets in Victorian Era Bennington. In the late 1800s it had both small but ornate Victorian cottages for potters, mill spinners and other blue-collar workers, and also much larger homes for some of Bennington’s wealthiest and most prominent citizens.

The 18th century kitchen in the museum, with its wood burning cook stove, will feature many cooking implements collected over an 80-year period by Marro’s mother, Helen Cleary, who cooked everything from scratch well into her 90s.

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Marro said she also plans to hold classes to teach children how to make things that children did in the Victorian Era, including doll clothing, doll quilts, and game boards.

Another exhibit set for the museum’s opening is "My Father’s Toys." Jack Cleary, who was born in 1916, lost his mother when he was two and was raised by grandparents and aunts. One aunt saved his toys and returned them to him when he was 50 years old. That collection includes a small dollhouse -- "yes, boys also played with dollhouses," Marro said -- and a railroad engineer doll, cats eye marbles and a jackknife.

In keeping with the holidays, the opening exhibit will feature a large collection of nutcrackers, which became popular in this country after World War II when troops returning from Germany brought them back as presents. In addition, many of the dollhouses themselves will be decorated for the season.

The museum will be open Saturdays and Sundays from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m., and also on most holidays. Admission will be $4, $2 for children age three and older. For information visit


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