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Inside Astolat, the $8.5 Million Dollhouse

Astolat took 12 years to construct with help from experts and artisans from around the world.

| BY Donald Liebenson

One of America’s most expensive and treasured homes will get a rare public viewing this year. The $8.5 million castle has 29 rooms. It contains a ballroom, an observatory and a chapel. It is also just nine feet tall. It is the Astolat Dollhouse Castle, and it is the dollhouse of your champagne wishes and caviar dreams.

Astolat was “envisioned and engineered” by miniaturist Elaine Diehl over a two year period. Most of her designs were committed to memory, according to the dollhouse’s website. It took 12 more years to construct with help from experts and artisans from around the world.  Depending on the furnishings displayed inside, it weighs between 815 and 890 pounds.

Astolat takes its inspiration from “The Lady of Shalott,” Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem about Elaine of Astolat, who lived in an island castle by a river that flowed to the mythical kingdom of Camelot.

In 1996, Diehl sold the dollhouse to Michael and Lois Freeman, a Long Island couple who have an autistic grandson. The New York Times reports that the family will display the dollhouse in New York this year at a time and place to be determined. Ticket sales will benefit Autism Speaks.

In the past 20 years, the Freeman’s have upgraded the Castle with new items purchased and commissioned. There are reportedly three times as many objects in storage at any one time than what is displayed in the Castle.

The Castle is complete with corridors and elaborately furnished sitting rooms. It also features a Wizard’s tower, wine cellar, chapel, Knights of Columbus room, garage, kitchen, marble hallways, bathrooms, balconies, and even a washer-dryer.

The interior craftsmanship includes parquet floors, working fireplaces, mosaics, hand-etched wood panels, carved wood moldings, stained glass panels, gold chandeliers and original oil paintings.

It takes two days and a dozen people to dismantle the Astolat Dollhouse Castle and two days and eight people to reassemble.

Miniature rooms hold a special fascination. One of the most enduringly popular exhibits at the Art Institute of Chicago is the Thorne Rooms, 68 miniature models of European interiors from the 16th century on and American furnishings from the 17th century on. Conceived by Chicago Socialite Mrs. James Ward Thorne, the rooms were created between 1934 and 1940.

About the Author

Donald Liebenson

Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.  

A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.