Mini at Heart NAME Club Estates
This page is dedicated to miniatures donated for the
enjoyment of Mini at Heart NAME Club members...
Barbara Elster's Miniatures:
Barbara Elster of Hempfield Twp., PA,
was an art educator, renowned painter, and a true miniaturist at heart.
As a member of the Westmoreland Hospital Ladies Auxiliary,
she was the founder and organizer for their Dollhouse and Miniature Show.
The show ran annually in Greensburg for a span of 40 years.
She was interviewed in an article outlining the 25th show (out of print),
and her daughter referenced her in an article preceding the 30th show (see link).
Barbara had family ties in Germany.
She developed a business called "Miniature Corner" and liaisoned with German sellers to import toys and porcelain to the United States.
She visited the Bavarian Alps in 1986,
and at that time she toured the shop of Rudolf Szalasi.
Rudolf and his wife Maria were Hungarian Toy Manufacturers
who specialized in Spielwaren Puppen Mobel
(German for toys dolls furniture) from 1952 until 1994.
Their dolls house furniture is approximately 1:10th scale
and is identified by red and gold foiled stickers.
She selected several of his masterpieces to be exported
to America for her personal collection.
Next week, it will be 18 years since Barbara passed away.
At the time, it was suggested that those mourning her
forward contributions in her honor to NAME.
An amazing part of her story is that two of her
German collections were gifted by Barbara's sons, James and Jack,
to Mini at Heart NAME Club in July of 2021.
The first is a rare Rococo-styled church
made in replica of Die Wieskirche
(The Church of Pilgrimage).
Wieskirche dates back to the 1740s
and is based upon an awesome legend (see link).
This piece in pink stucco standing 60 inches tall,
24 inches wide, and 38 inches deep,
is adorned with wedding cake-style piping.
These wood-based and plaster-accented pieces took months to make.
Cherubs decorate the church entry, walls, and ceiling.
Stations of the Cross are pictured along the walls.
Three exterior switches allow the church to come to life.
First, the wall, altar and accent candelabras light.
Next, the impressive centered gold chandelier lights
- having a 7 inch width, 13 inch height (including the stem), and 18 bulbs.
The third switch engages the music that sounds from the pipe organ.
The church is filled with customized Erna Meyer dolls.
I've included a link showing these dolls still being made in Germany today.
Enjoy the album, however, pictures don't adequately display its beauty.
The second piece is a spectacular castle modelled after Herrenchiemsee Palace,
one of German King Ludwig II's Bavarian castles built in the late 1800s.
It too is made of wood with a yellow-gold painted stucco exterior.
Its white wood framed glazed windows, balconies, and trim
are also ornately decorated with wedding cake-style piping.
The lavish decoration carries into the interior,
where the off-white enameled walls and ceilings are richly decorated
with raised pink and green flowers and gold filigree piping.
The shiny maple floors have a warm, glowing finish.
The castle has two large rooms open to the front
along with exterior stairs, copper-topped roof towers, and balconies.
Mechanisms function via a series of 7 switches
with most dedicated to lighting, one initiating the music,
and the final one allowing 4 couples to dance within the ballroom.
The castle overflows with Erna Meyer dolls bringing the collection total to 64.
Each room is overseen by a large centered chandelier.
Two walls are graced with large golden mirrors (4).
These in combination with the 2 large standing golden candelabras,
give resemblance of "The Hall of Mirrors" in Herrenchiemsee.
Furnishings include a piano, dresser, sofa, heater, sofa tables (2),
cradle, chairs (6), benches (5), stools (2), and side tables (7).
Lighting fixtures are secured
to the walls (8), tables (8) , stairs (2), and held by dolls (3).
Four of six ornate lamp posts originally wired are currently nonworking.
It's incredible that most all of the lighting functions
with just a few bulb bypasses, despite the delicacy of the wiring,
the collection being 35 years old, and occasional relocations.
Anyone coming to Cinderella's Castle,
arrives via the collection's white floral accented horse-drawn carriage,
sporting red velvet seating, a driver, and two footmen.
One of the best things about this collection is the personal photo album
documenting Barbara’s visit to Rudolf’s shop and the Wies Church.
(See her pictures of Rudolf with the castle she selected)