It all started with grandparents wanting to provide gifts for their granddaughters.
“My mother and father, Mary and Charlie Frost, wanted to give dollhouses to their granddaughters,” Mary Eckard said. “My father owned a factory and he had some workmen who created the dollhouses, and my mother decorated. When all of them were finished, she looked at my dad and said, ‘Where is my dollhouse?’ He asked her want she wanted.”
Eckard said she always saw beauty in the Governor’s Palace in Williamsburg, Va. So Mary Frost began a 40-year quest for the perfect replica of that house, which she finished a few weeks before she died at 97 in December 2016.
“Her passion for this house survived moves and survived a lot in life,” said Eckard, a longtime Carmel resident who serves on the Clay Township Board.
The Governor’s Palace was home to post-colonial governors Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson before the Virginia capital was moved to Richmond.
Eckard’s mission was to find a home for the house. She eventually donated it to the Hamilton County Parks and Recreation Dept., and it found a home at the Cox Mansion at Coxhall Gardens in Carmel. The Cox Mansion’s exterior resembles the Governor’s Palace of Williamsburg.
Eckard said her mother met Jesse Cox approximately 20 years ago. Cox died in 2008 at age 90.
“He was interested in what she was doing and told her to keep in touch, and now her house is in his house,” Eckard said.
The invitation-only dedication was held Sept. 14. Allen Patterson, director of the Hamilton County Parks and Recreation Dept., said the Williamsburg piece is an amazing addition.
“It’s a work of art,” Patterson said. “It’s an honor (to have it) at our facility. It’s a perfect marriage of the passion Jesse and Beulah Cox had for Williamsburg and Mary Frost had for Williamsburg. It gives us a great opportunity when we have tours and visitors at the mansion to show people what the inside of what the Governor’s Palace of Williamsburg would have looked like. The outside of the Cox Mansion is very nearly identical to Governor’s Place of Williamsburg, but the inside is more modern or 1970s (style). It’s a museum-quality piece.”
Eckard wanted it in a permanent place and not in a museum where it would be moved around if a new exhibit came. After checking with several places around the nation and not finding a suitable home, she got an idea.
“I woke up one morning and shot straight up in bed and said, ‘I know where it should go,’” Eckard said. “I remembered Coxhall and it how looked.”
Eckard called Patterson, who thought it was great idea.
“Don’t they always tell you to look in your own backyard?” Eckard said.
The tours are once a month and publicized on hamiltoncounty.in.gov/296/Parks-Recreation. Patterson said there is registration for the tours to keep the numbers to 20. Group tours are available by appointment as well by emailing the department at email@example.com.
Mary Frost started the house in Grand Rapids, Mich., in the home where she raised her seven children.
“She didn’t realize the scope would be as large as it is,” Eckard said. “The shell of the house was built. The rest of it was up to her. She learned how to make the miniatures.”
Frost completed it with the help of her seven children.
“We are scattered all over the country,” Eckard said. “It really isn’t just a dollhouse. It’s an enormous house. She had a replica in her mind because she had visited it a lot. She had magazines where she tore out the pages that represented the different rooms of the house.”
Following her husband’s death in 1991, Frost moved back to Mobile, Ala., and bought a house with three bedrooms.
“She didn’t have enough guest rooms for family (visitors) and a room for the Williamsburg house, so she found the perfect house that had an oblong room rather than a typical bedroom,” Eckard said.
The Mobile Miniature Society helped her complete the final stages, Eckard said.
“Everything in the house that looks life-like is tiny,” Eckard said. “She did a lot of the artwork until she got older.”
Eckard said one of the highlights of the home is the intricacies of the rifles that hang in the hall.
“Mother wouldn’t allow anyone to put anything down, all the carpeting, until everything was done with the rifles,” Eckard said. “There were thousands of dollars put into it, thousands of hours by the family. My mother was very particular. It was her baby, and it was going to be done right.”
That’s why it was important for all of Frost’s family that it found a home.
“We wanted to make sure it would live forever,” Eckard said.