Friday, May 4, 2018

There's No Place Like Home - Come Take A Virtual Tour Of Richard Steiff's House In America!

What's on your Steiff bucket list? It's easy to come up with a list of great Steiff toys that qualify as truly dreamy acquisitions. But in Steiffgal's case, her list also included visiting the home of her Steiff superhero - Richard Steiff! And dreams can come true, as they did last weekend when she had the absolute pleasure of visiting the Jackson, Michigan home where Richard lived in the late 1920's and 1930's when he resided in America. Come take a tour of this happy, historic home and see if you too can feel Richard's playful spirit!

Richard lived at 610 Harwood Road in Jackson, MI. Steiffgal has a number of notes he wrote on his personal letterhead; that is how she knew his exact address. She penned a letter to the family that lives there now, and asked if it would be possible to stop by for a quick tour with friends. The family was extremely gracious, and said yes. Then, through a series of emails and Facebook chats, the meeting was set for late April. 

Here on the left you can see the exterior of Richard's house. The neighborhood is really pleasant and family oriented, and apparently everyone knows everyone and is quite friendly.  The house, which was probably built in the 19-teens or early 1920's, has a distinctly arts and crafts look and feel to it. The front stairs are made from concrete, and the home features a marvelous outdoor sitting porch that extends the entire length of the house. The building itself may have been a "prefab" house that was ordered from a catalog like Sears and then built on site; this was somewhat common through the 1920's in America. 

The interior of the house is lovely and modern. Clearly, many changes and updates in both its decor and the layout were made over time by the various owners since 1939. This would have been done for practical as well as aesthetic reasons. For example, the original kitchen, which was tiny, was repurposed as a study. However, there are some exciting details in the house that clearly existed when Richard resided there. Perhaps the most obvious is the fine woodwork and paneling which appear in almost every room. You can see an example of that here on the left. The current owners said that the woodwork had been painted an "unnatural" color and that they stripped it to bring this detailing back to its original condition. Can you imagine Richard going up and down these steps? He certainly did about a zillion times when living here.

Another great feature of the house is a number of built-in storage units that are clearly original to the home. They are well constructed, with a charming, old fashioned look to them - earnest and practical at the same time. This storage unit, located at the top of the stairs, looks to be perhaps a linen closet for towels and sheets. There is also a built in china cabinet located in the dining room; the family suspects at one time it had glass doors. Today it is just open and displays a collection of vintage tableware. 

The attic in this house is open, light, and accessible by a staircase from the second floor. Although there are no physical indications today that Richard did work in this space, the room itself is extremely conducive to creativity given its layout, storage potential, sight lines, and window-configuration.  

The home's period details also include more decorative features like knobs, pulls, light switches, and vents. Here on the left you can see a very pretty floor vent located right near where the original kitchen was located. Of course, Steiffgal brought along the "Terrible Trio" of Bitty Bub, Mini Mopsy, and Petite Penelope on the visit. They, like Steiffgal, are batty over Richard Steiff - and that is why they decided to pose upside down on it. 

Richard's house features two laundry chutes. These allowed people on the upper floors to put their dirty clothes down a pipe leading to the basement where the "washing machine" was located - but more about that in a bit. Here you can see the bottom of the chute, which is basically just a large wooden box with a mesh wire door. The wood is quite worn and may have been "repurposed"; i.e., it started out life as shipping crates for produce or something like that. It was very cool to open and close this door, and realize that Richard had done so as well.

Speaking of laundry, it is most likely that the family did its laundry in this big granite sink tub. It is located just a few steps away from the laundry chute. Today it is allocated for storage, but its size, location, and materials perfectly align with 1930's usage. And right above the tub is a series of hooks - a set on one side of the basement and a symmetrical set on the other side of the basement. It is suspected that the family strung rope or lines between these sets of hooks, and used this setup as an indoor clothesline for drying laundry. You can see the tub and half the hooks pictured here on the left. 

Of course, Steiffgal has saved the best for last in this virtual tour. Perhaps the most thrilling part of this visit was to stand in Richard Steiff's workbench area. This is also located in the basement of the house - in the farthermost, back corner. It is a dark space, and the drawers and cabinets are all made from wood, which also may have been "repurposed" like that of the laundry chute receptacle. This area consists of series of drawers, shelves, and a well worn bench top. It is a truly magical space. Steiffgal ran her hands along the bench top, and on the drawers, just to touch something that was also very near and dear to Richard. It is interesting to note that this area has a similar feeling and construction to Richard's workbench area featured in the Steiff museum in Giengen. You can see a collage of Richard's Jackson workbench area pictured above. 

Steiffgal is incredibly thankful to Cheri Valkuchak and her family for opening their doors and hearts to this crazy collector and her traveling companions. Cheri runs a popular day care service for working families out of this house. Steiffgal can't think of a better use of this legacy Steiff space - and can only imagine Richard smiling at the thought of his home filled with happy, laughing children.

Steiffgal hopes you enjoyed this tour of the Steiff action in Jackson!

Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures? Let's talk! Click here to learn more.

1 comment:

  1. What a stunning tour to this allover magical STEIFF place! Thanks so much for doing and sharing! Beste bärige Grüße & Teddy hugs, Carsten


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