A few years ago I was at the flea market where I spotted a couple of vintage dollhouses side by side in the same booth. Both were works in progress but one was nearly completed, while the other one was a shell of a structure, the walls studded out but not yet finished. The vendor clearly thought I was a first-class idiot when I chose to buy the second structure instead of the more finished two-story dollhouse, but I didn’t even try to explain the appeal. The more primitive structure brought me up short; it was hard to believe that someone would have taken the time to create studs for interior walls when constructing this little house. It looked more like a maquette than a dollhouse-in-progress, yet the structure itself was so humble it seemed unlikely that a builder would bother to create a scale model before making the real thing. In fact, constructing the real house would probably take roughly the same number of hours as creating its tiny counterpart.
I find this house to be a compelling little vessel for imagining the kind of lives that that would have occupied such a raw structure, lives appropriate to its lack of architectural flourish. I see small, underfed homesteaders, hardscrabble types who would rather spend their days felling trees, planing wood and nailing boards together in the wilderness of the New World hoping it would all work out rather than spending their days in the Old World knowing for sure it wouldn’t.