The First Lady Dollhouse

The First Lady Dollhouse

One of my most favorite things to do at Real Good Toys is to dig through old dollhouse archives, sorting through old pictures and dollhouse history. I don’t often get to do that except when a customer has a request, and recently we’ve had a few inquiries about the “First Lady” dollhouse from the 1980’s. Many of you long time miniaturists may remember this grand creation and the story that surrounds it.  It’s a bit of Real Good Toys history that is worth sharing.

Real Good Toys was approached in the fall of 1980 by an interior designer. He claimed to have been selected by Rosalynn Carter to create the 1980 White House Christmas display. He wanted Real Good Toys to provide a dollhouse to add to the old fashioned Victorian style display. As you might imagine, Jim Abrams and John Javna, then partners, were not at all sure this was a legitimate request.  Over the years people had suggested projects that never happened, so their skepticism was warranted.  This designer had seen our dollhouses at a New York City miniatures show and was quite sure he wanted a Real Good Toys dollhouse.  He wanted a bricked Victorian with a tower, wraparound porch, lots of gingerbread…the works.  That’s when it hit Jim and John…this was real. A Real Good Toys dollhouse was going to the White House!!

As you can imagine, Real Good Toys was right in the midst of their busiest time of year, but time needed to be set aside for this amazing honor and opportunity.  Finally there was a window of time to concentrate on their creation….two weeks before it needed to be completed and on the way to the White House.  Just two weeks to create the most important dollhouse in 9 years of RGT!! They decided to customize one of their Victoria’s Choice dollhouse kits with gingerbread, cornices, bricks and asphalt shingles. Construction began at a feverish pace, but the biggest challenge was bricking. No one in the shop had a ever bricked a dollhouse. Needless to say, after some round the clock work, and some trial and error masonry, the dollhouse was completed.  The job took an estimated 140 hours, but it was still not ready to head to the White House.  The designer wanted to put his finishing touches on it and decorate it for Christmas.  He aged the brick and added miniature wreaths and garlands. The grand “First Lady” was ready for its journey. 

Jim and John accompanied the dollhouse to the White House where it was unveiled at the National Press Party on December 15, 1980.  Rosalynn Carter conducted interviews with CBS, US News and World Report and Newsweek while standing right next to the dollhouse.  22,000 people a day saw the display with over 200,00 people visiting during the 1980 Christmas season. There was a great feature in the April 1981 Nutshell News and many newspapers, local and national, gave lots of exposure to the project.  The publicity for Real Good Toys dollhouses was priceless. 

The "First Lady" Dollhouse in 1" and 1/2" scale

The Dollhouse had 14 rooms and was 5 feet long, 3 feet high and 2 feet deep and was covered with over 10,000 miniature bricks.  RGT made a limited quantity that were available to sell in March 1981.  The dollhouse was so successful that a 1/2″ scale version was also created.

So where is the actual “First Lady” ? It is unclear,or memories are unclear, as to what exactly happened to this particular dollhouse. Wherever she is, I hope she is being enjoyed and that her owners know her history. If anyone has a “First Lady” dollhouse and would like to share information or pictures,send me an email at [email protected]. I would love to hear from you.  ♥

41 Responses to “The First Lady Dollhouse”

  1. Rita McDowell Says:

    If Mrs Carter left the First Lady Dollhouse at the White House when the Carters left, then it is probably being stored somewhere. You could probably contact the White House.gov and they may be able to tell you where the dollhouse is. Good luck! Caution: the website White House.gov if you use .com you will be in for a BIG surprise!!

  2. jodi_towne Says:

    Wouldn’t that be something if it were in storage! I have a sneaking suspicion that it left the White House and is in someone else’s possession. I would love to know though!

  3. Trae Russell Says:

    I have been to the Smithsonian and seen dollhouses in the Museum of American History. This one wasn’t there, but I bet that the Smithsonian has it.

  4. Donald Jenny Says:

    I agree, you should seek out where the dollhouse is and ask for it back to be put on display in honor of the Carters. Perhaps if you contacted the Carters directly, maybe they would have the pull to get it back to you. At least get it into a dollhouse museum where it belongs and not in storage where no one can enjoy it.

  5. Mary: Mary's Dollhouses Says:

    I started my business in 1982, I only wish I had the chance to buy one of The First Lady kit’s.It would be nice to track down that dollhouse, good luck in your search.

  6. Donna Neal Says:

    Why not bring it back in both full and half size? You could do a clapboard version. Do you have pictures of the inside?

  7. Dale Sanford Says:

    Jodi,
    Sorry to take so long to thank you for the picture of my dollhouse.
    I am still in the painting process. I will forward a picture when it is finished.

    Thanks again,
    Dale

  8. Hester Adamson Says:

    OMG, I would love to buy this doll house and put it together. I would like to see what it looks like on the inside. I too think it should have clapboard siding offered.

  9. jodi_towne Says:

    Hi Hester, Just let me know your mailing address and I will send you a black & white picture I have of the inside of the First Lady.

  10. jodi_towne Says:

    Good idea Donna. I’ll check with the powers that be and see if they are interesting in bringing her back.

  11. Lucy F. Bonilla Says:

    Would love to buy this house and build it. Is it available? If not, will it be? It is beautiful and would be very appreciated. Please bring back the First Lady Dollhouse.

  12. jodi_towne Says:

    Hi Lucy, Unfortunately the First Lady is no longer in production…but who knows. Maybe enough interest will be generated to bring her back.

  13. Joseph Guenther Says:

    The house is in The Hall of Presidents in Clermont Florida.

  14. Sarah Roberson Says:

    I would love to see the First Lady kit made available again. It is just gorgeous. After seeing it in brick, I’m not sure anything else would do!! It would be nice to see a good picture of the inside as well. I hope you can find out what happened to the original.

  15. Rhu McBee Says:

    The current First Lady stated in a magazine article that the best Christmas present she ever received as a child was a dollhouse. I’d like to think that the RGT First Lady Dollhouse is being discovered for Sasha and Malia in a White House storage area even as I write this.

  16. Irma Bitetto Says:

    I agree with Lucy…if at any time it becomes available, I would love to have it…..soooo Please, pretty please do try to make it possible??!!!!

  17. Maria Smith Says:

    I would love to make this dollhouse and have it in my shop. Please think about bringing it back.

  18. Melody Williams Says:

    I have a partially assembled “First Lady” dollhouse for sale. It is numbered 100\250.
    All original paperwork and assembly instructions.
    717-887-5550 – leave message.

  19. Ann Carol Malcolm Says:

    Hi, Jodi, Many years ago-probably in ’82 before I opened my shop in ’84 I saw a 1/2″ version of The First Lady at Fred’s dollhouse shop in Vermont. He showed me how the different components of RGT houses could be assembled, etc.to make a variety of styles. Considering my more recent love of 1/2 scale, I wish I had bought one. Then probably about 15 years ago, a customer came in with a picture of one in full scale wanting identifica-
    tion. I was delighted to be able to tell her!…and she was thrilled!

  20. Lisa thompson Says:

    being relatively new to the hobby, I too, would welcome the opportunity to own this beautiful house in either full or half scale, or both! please bring it back, and let me know when it is available!

  21. Debbie Hughes Says:

    In packing to move this past month I discovered that I also have ‘The First Lady’ Kit. It is partially put together, and I have a lot of extras. I am not able to keep it and would love to have it go to a good home. It is # 195/250 and I also have all the original paperwork. Email me at: [email protected]

  22. Kim Durst Says:

    I would definitely buy the half scale version if Real Good Toys would be kind enough to bring it back. I’m sure there would be lots of interest. It is the perfect dollhouse, and I keep searching for one to no avail.

  23. Jae Sigler Says:

    I have a partially assembled “First Lady” dollhouse for sale. It was a gift when I was in elementary school… my grandparents & parents owned a miniature shop in Leavenworth, Washington. Unfortunately, the shop has closed. I also have “additions” for the kit… if you are interested, please call me at 425-765-9849.

  24. Consuella Brown Says:

    Would love to have the First Lady brought back or if ANYONE has one they’d be willing to sell I will happily purchase it.

  25. jodi_towne Says:

    Hi consuella, check your email for some info on a First Lady for sale.

  26. jodi_towne Says:

    Hi Jae, Check your email for someone who might be interested in your First Lady.

  27. Ted Says:

    Does anyone know they approximate number of “The First Lady dollhouses have survived to date? I owen one myself and am logically interested.

  28. Cliff Douglas Says:

    Hi Jodi, We were fortunate to find a ‘First Lady” at a garage sale in Brandon, Vt. a month ago. She has served a little girl well but is need of renovation. Process has begun.

    .

  29. Joady Says:

    I have just retired and am excited to start working on my “First Lady” dollhouse again. I received it many years ago as a gift and have to the shell assembled. I don’t know how to proceed and need help as to what I should do next. Do I work on the electrical, divide the space, not sure what to do. Does anyone have any advice for me.
    Thank you!

  30. jodi_towne Says:

    Ted, I do know that only about 500 were made, but not how many are still out there. That would be a great thing to know. Thanks.

  31. Stacey Says:

    Someone had given us a doll house in a box, already put together about 6 years ago. Our granddaughter who is 6 asked for a dollhouse for Christmas this year. When we opened the box tonight we discovered it is a First Lady 1/2 Scale Dollhouse! Now we are anxious to clean it up and buy some furniture…..

  32. John Chobert Says:

    I bought this doll house in 1980 for my seven year old daughter. I began to assemble it to the extent that the house & tower were up. I never finished and it sat gathering dust in my basement until we moved in 2005. I packed it up in five boxes and it sat again until Christmas of 2012 when I was chided for never finishing it and perhaps I could finish it for my six year old granddaughter.

    Thus I bgan to look for it. The boxes were not together, I found four, forgetting about the fifth and began to unbox the contents when I realized I was missing a great deal. I searched High & low and found it in the last box I opened.

    On New Years day I dusted off the pieces and realized I was going to have a “great deal of fun” recreating it. I have pieces all over the basement and while I still had the direction for the house, none for the tower and no idea of what it was supposed to look like. Thank God I stumbled across your article and printed it out. Now I at least have a fighting chance of getting it together properly. Pleased to know it’s one of only 500. Makes me wonder after 35 years, how many still exist. Bet mine is the only one never finished

    Thank you.

  33. marty hess Says:

    What is the value of these doll houses. I have one assembled, wired and sitting in my daughters bedroom. still have the hand written diretions.

  34. Jan Miller Says:

    My mother had a miniature shop in the early 80’s and purchased and partially assembled a “First Lady” dollhouse. It was never completed. My granddaughter and I are now dusting it off and working toward finishing. I would love to know more information about finishing this. I do not know if we have all the instructions or where to find a series number. I am enjoying all the posts thus far.

  35. Mae Hays Says:

    I have a half scale First Lady in the box that I am willing to sell.

    Can you help me get in touch with anyone looking for this gem?

    Wish I had room for one more dollshouse-I’d keep it in a flash!

  36. jodi_towne Says:

    Hi Mae, I might suggest mentioning it on our FaceBook page, Real Good Toys Dollhouses. Also, check with Craigslist and perhaps post your dollhouse kit for sale with them. I’m sure someone will jump at the chance. Good luck!

  37. Mae Hays Says:

    Thanks for the heads up. Sold it at the Dayton Ohio Three Blind Mice Show this last weekend.

    It is such a cute project-almost couldn’t resist finishing it myself.

  38. Jane Says:

    Hello!
    I have an unfinished First Lady Dollhouse that I would like to sell. I purchased it when I was 13 from a toy store in Indianapolis. I never got around to finishing it. Please contact me at janebgeller (at) mac (dot) com if you are interested!

    Thank you!

  39. jodi_towne Says:

    Hi Jane, I spoke with your husband and gave him the name of a dollhouse store in Indianpolis. They, in turn, called me and said they were going to refurbish it for you and then perhaps donate it. Hopefully that all goes well and to your satisfaction. Let me know if you need further help.

  40. Ed Says:

    In answer to your question I think that it might be in the presidents museum in Clermont Fla.
    I was there about 5 years ago and I seem to remember a dollhouse billed as the first lady’s.
    The museum is located on highway 27 in Clermont next to the citrus tower. Unfortunately I don’t live in that area or I would shoot over there and check it out for you . Good luck !

  41. F J Wade Says:

    I have a First Lady doll house in very good condition that I would be interested in selling. If interested, contact me at [email protected]