With its three forms of siding, balcony and turret tower, this two-level Victorian-style playhouse is any kid’s dream. Residing in the backyard of Lansing couple Dick and Linda Williams, the “Maple Shade Manor” saw generations of neighborhood youngsters pass through its doors that are now well into middle age. It resides underneath a fully grown maple tree.
“I think you can tell who is the biggest kid on the block,” Linda Williams said.
The couple got the idea to build it after seeing a 1977 Century 21 commercial about a real estate agent, played by a young girl, with a miniature home. Dick Williams called Century 21 and eventually got the blueprints to the tiny home to replicate.
“They were very sketchy plans,” Linda Williams said. “Dick did wonders. For a Queen Anne Victorian house, it has to qualify with three different types of siding.”
But it was more than just a playhouse, it was a place of teaching children life skills, Linda Williams added.
“This mailbox was to help the children read. If children got mail addressed to them, they would want to read it,” Linda Williams said.
“When you give children metal or plastic dishes, they will throw them, step on them and treat them with disrespect. If you give them Victorian China, they’ll learn to take care of things,” she remarked.
The Victorian theme extends to the inside with a dinner table, full dinnerware set, children’s furniture and a repurposed spice rack to hold miniature fine chinaware. Despite generations of children playing in the house, the only thing missing from the set is one sugar container.
“You got to tell them, ‘If you break these dishes, you aren’t going to have lunch out here.’ They listen after that,” she said.
The house is part of the greater lifetime passion for all things Victorian for Linda Williams. She used to teach Victorian etiquette classes and orchestrated the Civil War ballroom dance at the Central United Methodist Church each year.
One time, Linda Williams made the children a four-course Victorian dinner for the children inside. In line with Victorian etiquette, the first course is fish. But Linda Williams gave them all Goldfish crackers instead.
She said the children had no trouble following her list of rules. If they acted up, she would simply say, “I’m surprised you’d do that because you are such a nice person. See you tomorrow.” That was the en.
Besides being a Victorian house, the “Maple Shade Manor” could become the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, a Cedar Point concession stand and a theater for plays.
“When we pass we hope a couple comes, buys it and uses it for their kids,” Dick Williams said. “I hope they take care of it like we did.”