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Historic dollhouse lovingly restored in time for the holidays

Rancho Santa Fe's Mary Raser restored the 140-year-old dollhouse.
(Rachel Ramage)
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Longtime Rancho Santa Fe residents Cathy and Brad Geier have lived in their Spanish Revival home, Rancho Del Oso, for over 27 years. The home was designed by famed architect Handy Wass and approved by Lilian Rice for its Spanish revival design.

When they initially moved into the home, they had five children under the age of nine. The Geiers took their time making any changes, updates or additions, committed to preserving its historic significance to the Ranch. Today, Rancho Del Oso is a home full of constant activity as the Geiers play host to numerous friends and family members—including daily pickleball games.

A peek inside the dollhouse.
(Rachel Ramage)

Sitting dormant in the back of a garage on the Geier property was an even more historic residence: a dollhouse built in the late 1800s in Long Meadow, Mass. by the builder of the historic Brewer-Young mansion. The elegant little dollhouse was made to look similar to the grand mansion in stature and colors, with its green roof and white siding.

The Young family had given Brad Geiers’ grandmother Elizabeth Alden Steele the dollhouse as a gift when she was born in 1907. From that time forward, the dollhouse went through three generations of Steele family members, finally passing down to Brad’s sister Jennifer Geier Kelley.

Cathy and Brad Geier with their grandchildren.
Cathy and Brad Geier with their grandchildren.
(Copyright of Cathy and Brad Geier)

It was not until after a friendly pickleball game between Cathy and longtime Ranch resident and realtor Mary Raser that the historic home in the garage again came to light.

During their chat, Raser mentioned that as a child she used to build and create dollhouses and their furnishings for the local toy store in her hometown of Princeton, New Jersey. As soon as she laid her eyes upon the old dollhouse, she knew it had to be restored and was thrilled to have the Geiers agree to let her bring it back to life and surprise the family and their 12 grandchilden at Christmas.

A Geier grandchild checks out the newly restored dollhouse.
A Geier grandchild checks out the newly restored dollhouse.
(Cathy Geier)

The four-room dollhouse was in need of much repair as it had been well-loved over the years. Raser’s renovation included not only new shingles, flooring, wallpaper and window treatments but also the additions of precious details such as a framed photo of the original mansion in Longmeadow, framed photos of the Geier children and a miniature wedding picture of Cathy and Brad.

For Christmas, she added Santa and his sleigh racing across the rooftop, wreaths in the windows, a garland of stockings and a Christmas tree with mini presents in the living room.

“It was a true labor of love,” Raser said. “Now the historic home sits happily in the den of the Geier home for future generations to enjoy, just as the historic home of Brad and Cathy continues to bring joy to future generations.”


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