SHARING A COLLECTION – Elizabeth Plumtree

Hundreds of dolls to be shown at the Cronquist House

Margaret Soley’s extensive collection displayed during mother-daughter tea

  • May. 15, 2013 6:59 p.m.

Hundreds of dolls ranging from recent times to many from earlier eras will be shown during a mother-daughter tea coming up at the Cronquist House.

The charming, historic house, built in the early 1900s, is the ideal setting for this kind of event, and organizers are hoping for a solid turnout as this is one of the few times the enormous doll collection is being showcased.

The tea runs May 25 from 1 to 4 p.m.

Cost is $10 per adult and $5 per child (cash only). Reservations are recommended, and can be made by calling 403-346-0055.

There are some 800 dolls in the collection, which belonged to the late Margaret Soley, explains Elizabeth Plumtree, vice chair of the Red Deer Cultural Heritage Society. “We want moms, daughters and grandmothers are of course welcome too. Everyone can come and see all the dolls that we have.”

Soley left the collection to the Red Deer Cultural Heritage Society with hopes that the collection could be shared with the community. “She wanted that.

“I also understand that they were all in one room in her house.”

It was in 1989 that the dolls were delivered to the Cronquist House, and Plumtree said they have been on display periodically over the years and the response has always been very enthusiastic.

“People love them – it doesn’t matter what age they are, people love to come and see them.”

The collection is indeed remarkable – the dolls come in all shapes and sizes, and a plethora of styles and time periods are represented. Many were also given as gifts to Soley by friends who travelled abroad as well.

Plumtree is confident guests will enjoy perusing the collection while they also have a chance to check out the setting as well.

“I think they will really enjoy it, and I also think guests will enjoy coming into the Cronquist House as well.”

Built in the early 1900s, the six bedroom, three-storey, 3,500 sq. ft. Victorian-style farmhouse was originally built on what is now West Park Estates overlooking the Red Deer River valley. The Cronquist family were Swedish immigrants, and it was the home’s owner Emmanuel Cronquist who drew up the plans for the home.

According to the Red Deer Cultural Heritage Society, it had been in 1892 that he had first visited Red Deer and purchased 50 acres for a homestead.

“He returned the following year, settling in the Burnt Lake district. In 1894, he was joined by his wife Hilda and their children. Unfortunately, enroute to their new home, two of their oldest boys died.”

In 1973, the house and the land were acquired by developers who planned to demolish the house and build a new subdivision. But three years later, the Red Deer Folk Festival Society took on the challenge of “rescuing the now famous Cronquist House from demolition.” Part of the agreement included moving the structure to a new location – certainly a formidable task but thankfully a hard-working band of volunteers rallied to the cause, recalls Plumtree.

It was painstakingly relocated across the river to its current site at Bower Ponds. Windows were removed, as were the bricks, to make the move a bit easier

The move took place on March 27, 1976. Again according to the Society, “The ice on the River was thinner than expected that year, due to a warm winter, and thus required that a temporary causeway be crafted for the crossing.

“Once the causeway was completed, the entire moving process, from bank to bank, took 75 minutes.”

A complete restoration followed, and today folks are welcome to visit the home during the summer months when regular teas, lunches and various events are held there.

“A lot of people don’t even know it’s here,” said Plumtree of the house, which overlooks the stage where Canada Day entertainment takes place annually as well. “That’s what amazes me, although it’s a bit hidden away in this park,” she adds with a smile. “But it’s an icon. It really is.”

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