Explore the incredible playhouses of the Dodge and Wilson children – Knole Cottage, the Wilson Playhouse and Dan’s Cabin.
Knole Cottage is a ¾- scale playhouse that was built for Frances Dodge in 1926 for her 12th birthday, before construction had even begun on Meadow Brook Hall.
Furnished with appropriately scaled furniture, textiles, decorative art and fully functioning appliances, the enchanting six room cottage was intended to teach Miss Dodge the art of homemaking, including managing a checkbook.
It was known as "the World's Finest Dollhouse."
Richard and Barbara’s Playhouse had a small kitchenette and living area. The simplicity of the playhouse reflects the family’s pared-down expenditures during the Depression, as well as the children’s ages– 5 and 4 years old, respectively.
Too young yet to enjoy the playhouses of their older siblings, toddlers Richard and Barbara weren’t left out of the fun on the great estate. In 1934, their parents built them their own special playhouse, just the right size for the children and their nanny.
The family originally planned a children’s play area in these woods. The moving of the Wilson Playhouse in 2019 brings us closer to completing that plan.
In 1926, the rustic east portion of this log playhouse was constructed to be a playhouse for 9-year old Daniel Dodge. It was designed by Smith, Hinchman & Grylls. The rustic interior had varnished log walls and ceiling, a maple floor and a stone fireplace. A bathroom was located in the southeast corner.
In 1937, Dan added a workshop to the west end to serve his experimental laboratory. It had a garage door so he could work on his automobiles and engines.
Dan’s Cabin was moved from the farmhouse property to be part of the interpretation of the Meadow Brook estate in 2012.
In 1926, Matilda and Alfred Wilson started construction on their family home. Near the estate’s farmhouse (where they lived during construction), they also built a sweet miniature playhouse for daughter Frances and a log cabin for son Dan. This was the first phase of an unrealized landscape plan that would have included a dancing garden, lake and even a Pirate Island.
Knole Cottage was moved to this part of the estate in 1929 and badly damaged during the move. Though it was restored, the family realized around this time that, due to the Stock Market crash, the death of their landscape architect, and the enormous expense of creating a lake, they probably would never finish the landscape plan.
Whether they worried about the damage or expense of moving Dan’s Cabin here, or if they realized he much rather enjoyed being by the men and machines of the farm, they never moved the cabin.
The old farmhouse would remain central to the family’s recreational activities, with an outdoor pool and dog kennel joining the indoor pool, golf course and playground equipment. So when they built Wilson Playhouse in 1934 for toddlers Richard and Barbara, it too was located by the farmhouse.
In the intervening years, Dan’s Cabin and the Wilson Playhouse became part of the modern golf course property. When they could no longer be used, Meadow Brook Estate offered to move and restore them, using the “playhouse area” of the original landscape plan to inform their decision.