Built to last
Huntley – For over 30 years, Del Webb resident Wesley Anderson has been crafting cape cods, colonials, and Victorian mansions, all from within the comforts of his own home. He is, in fact, a closet architect – literally – and has built and decorated four well-furnished houses.
Dollhouses, that is.
“I had the idea when our oldest daughter turned seven. My wife, Jan, and I decided we would build her a dollhouse for Christmas. I thought it would be a neat gift to give her that would last a lifetime. I also thought it’d be a fun project to do, so I bought a kit and put it together,” Anderson said.
Anderson discovered it wasn’t quite that simple when Christmas Eve approached and he was suddenly in short supply of building materials.
“I had no idea how long it was going to take,” he said. “I ran out of shingles at quarter to six in the evening on Christmas Eve night. I called the dollhouse shop where I got the kit, and they said they were closing. And I said, ‘Well, I’ve got this big problem.’”
Fortunately, the shop decided to stay open longer that night, and Anderson was able to finish his daughter’s gift just in the nick of time.
Anderson then endeavored to craft a second dollhouse for his next daughter three years later, also as a Christmas gift.
“I started early this time,” he said. “My wife and I made it in the closet of our bedroom, actually. Then on Christmas Eve, after all of our guests had left, we were going to take it downstairs and put it under the tree, but we slid and damaged the roof. I had to do a midnight repair, but it worked out fine in the end.”
Anderson loves the idea of constructing sophisticated gifts for his children. He also built dozens of model airplanes and rockets for his grandsons, some of which had the capability to go airborne.
“I’d done model-making for the boys, but I thought this would be a chance to build a model, but of a different kind, for the girls,” he said.
Originally, Anderson imagined his future granddaughters would become the new owners of the two dollhouses that he made for his daughters. However, his granddaughter Nicole, who was seven years old at the time, had other ideas.
“I thought maybe my daughters would hand down the dollhouses to their girls, but then my first granddaughter said she had been wondering if grandpa would make her a dollhouse. So I went shopping with her, and we picked out the house she wanted,” Anderson said.
Following suit, Anderson started work on his fourth dollhouse for his youngest granddaughter, Katelyn, last autumn. This house has taken him 750 hours so far and is the most complex yet.
“The earlier houses I made took me a couple hundred hours. This one is probably taking me at least twice that long with the roofing and the shingles. The thousands of one-inch shingles have to be put on individually by hand,” Anderson explained.
The intricacy of these miniature models is part of why Anderson considers this project to be rewarding.
“My favorite part, really, is when you get it put together and then start finishing it with the decorating and the roofing, and you start seeing it take shape, like a real house going up,” he said.
This complex craftsmanship has not only resulted in artful abodes, but also in a new skill set.
“I was a chemical engineer, not an architect,” he said. “From building the dollhouses, I’ve learned you’ve got to follow the directions, and if you try to take a shortcut, you’re in big trouble. I‘ve learned a lot.”
But this learning experience is only part of the job’s total satisfaction.
“Soon, you start thinking about what the kids are going to think when they see it and knowing that they enjoy it so much,” Anderson said. “It’s a labor of love, and it’s been a lot of fun.”