In 1981 we built two of our most elaborate Victorians—the first with a garage, and secret room, the other with a greenhouse–as well as the prototype and 20 shells for our first class. Plus we squeezed in a date night to see Raiders of the Lost Ark. The thought of that amount of work continues to stagger me. Does time really pass slower when we’re young? It has to be more than just an accumulation of double-digit daily work hours, bending time back on each of our days like a folding tape measure. A warp. Or a hole, one those black holes physicists continue to beat their brains over. If we were to start now we couldn’t check off even one of those projects in a year. Well, maybe the garage prototype. And the movie.
The Megler Landing, house #24, was a fun project from the get-go. A young couple approached us at a Seattle miniature show to build them a house. When we said it would be a four year wait, at the very least, they were not discouraged. By the time we got around to starting their project we had become pen pals, learning that she had become pregnant shortly after we met, followed by news of the birth of their son and subsequent holiday photos of his growth. They invited us to stay at their home on our way to and from delivering houses that preceded theirs (and the invitations did not cease after Noel spilled a glass of red wine on their white couch).
In our correspondence we mentioned there was a secret room, and a garage for the men in the house. By the time we delivered their house, the son was 4 years old. His name was Brody, a name Noel etched into the dust of one of their mini-garage windows.
The Megler name came from another nearby landmark, an expanse of basalt rocks on the Washington side of the Columbia where the Astoria-Megler ferry once docked. It was just up the river from McGowan where a family of that name had built a large Victorian home, nothing like our design, but one of the prominent Victorians in our neck of the woods.
Again we dug into our hoard of reference books to come up with something new. Until this time our houses had been mostly red or green with white trim, like the Victorians in our area. The modern interpretation of houses of the period. One book in particular—Exterior Decoration of the Victorian Era–showed more representative colors of the time–brooding, darker pallets, with color combinations closer in value. It included multiple illustrations of a single design with different color treatments, making the overall effect easier to imagine. As the owners-to-be were deep into Victoriana, we dove into a deep red and green color scheme, with yellow ochre for the window mullions. After a quick check for the owner’s least favorite color for a house (purple), we started in. As was our pattern, our first stop was the hardware store to have them try to mix our colors. From there it was back to the studio to mix in some umbers, as the formula colors always wound up too bright. Then we took the plunge, hoping the final effect would look rich, rather than gloomy.
The night of our delivery of the Megler (via Los Angeles to have it photographed in our friend Harry Liles’s studio), long after we were tucked into their guestroom bed, the owner spent hours sitting in the dark with the house, its lights on, figuring out the location of the secret room. We were sure it would take weeks, if not months. But she had it by 2:00 a.m.
Note: Recently the ownership of the house changed. It is now on permanent display at the Gateway Museum Center in Maysville, KY.
The Meglar landing customers are fantastic people indeed. I have built two projects for them and they inspire one to put real heart into the pieces because they have such true hearts.
I am glad to hear the house is going to a museum where many people will have a chance to fall in love with it. I never did figure out where the secret room was on my visits to their home.
It is a given you would not produce more in the later versus the earlier years. The standards of excellence we place on ourselves continues to increase project by project and that more than anything reduces the speed by demanding quality over quantity.
Stunning…I just sat and stared—
I live in Kentucky and am hoping to visit the Gateway museum soon. I’ll have to see if I can find the hidden room!
Happy hunting. It’s pretty hard to find the secret rooms if you don’t have access to the interiors, and we don’t remember which houses we put them in! Be aware too that our houses are not always on display at the Gateway. Call ahead to check.