Monday, March 14, 2016

You Won't Believe How Many Dolls Are Inside This Arkansas Museum!

What if I were to tell you there was an entire former Army barrack packed floor to ceiling throughout with dolls? Would you believe me?

You should. Because that's what you'll find at Chaffee Crossing at the Enchanted Doll Museum in Fort Smith.


There's a door at each end of this old building at Fort Chaffee.  You can enter either way, but you can't enter before placing a phone call or email to Mary Merechka first.

This collection is hers, and it's on display at the Enchanted Doll Museum.
But you can only visit by appointment.

Mary, like many other little girls, started collecting dolls when she was young.  But unlike many of us, she kept those dolls and kept adding more to her collection... and more... and more.
She would play with them but she would also keep many in their original boxes.

Over time, she preserved thousands of dolls, which she stored and shelved in her Van Buren home.  But in 2008, a new possibility opened up, a chance for her to share her dolls with everyone.  That year, the Chaffee Crossing Historic District was created.  The 7000 acre Chaffee Crossing complex on the former Fort Chaffee base included a museum district anchored by the Chaffee Barbershop Museum.  And yes, there was room for her dolls.

Thus the Enchanted Doll Museum was born.  Within the 1500 square foot building, you'll find dolls of every sort.  If you had a doll as a child, chances are there's a version of it within these walls.


Mary's collection includes an entire wall plus another hutch full of Shirley Temple dolls and memorabilia.  I never imagined just how many Shirley Temple dolls existed, and I suspect Mary has collected the majority of them.

She also has a large collection of dolls related to Gone With The Wind, including sets of Barbies of the major characters and dolls wearing all those different Scarlet dresses - yes, even the curtain dress.


There's an incredible collection of Kewpie dolls, each with those chubby cheeks and shining eyes.



One of the more valuable pieces in the collection is a Jesus nativity doll.  When this doll was created, the company was taken to task for selling images of the Christ child.  Most of the run was disposed of in the sea, making this complete purchase set very, very rare.

The oldest dolls in Mary's collection date back to at least the turn of the 19th to 20th centuries.  There are dolls representing every decade, in all sorts of sizes, including a lifesize Barbie and Ken set from the 1960s.

Of course, there are plenty of Barbies, from several decades, from the lushly adorned Christmas Barbies to an international set, Barbies dressed as Disney Princesses and celebrities and in all manners of occupational wear.


For children of the 80s like me, there's a whole set of Cabbage Patch Kids, in a variety of colors and outfits.


When the museum opened in 2008, there were five thousand dolls within the house-sized facility.  In recent years, Mary has also acquired a very large collection from a lady in Gurdon, who donated the dolls so they
might be appreciated by future generations.

And here they can be - the gorgeous and the unusual, the common and the unique. There's no way to show them all at one time within the museum, but Mary circulates them. However, her other businesses
(which include the Enchanted Wedding Chapel, Fantasies at the Fort and the Enchanted Park) keep her busy.  Therefore, the museum is only open by appointment.  But once you make that appointment, visiting is free, and Mary can tell you so many stories about so many of these dolls.

If you'd like to visit the Enchanted Doll Museum, please call (479) 478-0225.  You'll find more information about Chaffee Crossing here. And be sure to schedule plenty of time to see everything.


Personal note:  Yes, I did find dolls from my own childhood here, including a version of the Barbie and Skipper case my mom handed down to me and the Madame Alexander Little Women set I collected.  Bet you'll find yours, too.


Other places to visit while you're in Fort Smith:
Fort Smith National Historic Site
Fort Smith Museum of History
Enchanted Doll Museum
Miss Laura's Visitors Center

Share our experiences - click here to see where else we went on our epic road trip along US Highway 71 from the Louisiana border to the Missouri state line.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Be kind.