Prized collectible villages on
display for Mercer County community
By MARGIE WUEBKER
ST. HENRY — Dorothy Bruns had no idea her first purchase
of quaint New England village buildings would launch a collection
that is too big to display in her two-bedroom apartment.
She has made arrangements to display the prized Department 56
collectibles at the Granville Township Branch Library in St.
Henry throughout the holiday season.
“I was raised to believe you should share the things you
love,” Bruns says. “So you might consider this my
Christmas gift to the community.”
Bruns, who worked as a program analyst with the U.S. Navy/Department
of Defense for more than 30 years, fell in love with the lighted
ceramic buildings during a visit to a Leesburg, Va., gift shop.
Wracked with indecision, she eventually left the shop empty
handed, only to return later and purchase eight pieces in the
New England village series. The company, headquartered in Eden
Prairie, Minn., had launched the popular series two years earlier
“I bought the first seven pieces as well as the log cabin
called Timber Knoll,” Bruns says. “It’s probably
my favorite of the nearly 100 buildings in the collection. There
is something about log cabins — perhaps it’s the
sheer simplicity — that appeals to me.”
The introductory set included the apothecary shop, Stoney Brook
town hall, Moggin Falls General Store, livery stable and boot
shop, Nathaniel Bingham Fabrics, the schoolhouse and Steeple
Church. They are the kinds of establishments commonly found
in communities during bygone times.
The gift shop notified Bruns as Department 56 released annual
offerings. In addition to building replicas iced with snow and
decked with wreaths or Christmas finery, she purchased 140 sets
of accessories that add a realistic touch.
Cows graze near the Pennsylvania Dutch barn while the dapper
mayor, complete with eye-catching red earmuffs, stands outside
the town hall welcoming residents and visitors. The iceman cometh
at the Blue Star Ice Co. and warmly clad skaters whirl across
the surface of an icy pond. Men and women tote buckets and stir
kettles as maple sugaring activities unfold. Townspeople armed
with old-fashioned Christmas lights head for the towering tree
while pot-bellied stoves adorn the porch of Hudson Stoveworks.
Woolly fleeces await processing at Smythe Woolen Works while
freshly-shorn lambs kick up their heels. A lonely chimney sweep
heads toward home carrying a sooty broom over his shoulder.
One can almost hear his feet crunch on the new-fallen snow created
with carefully placed Fiberfill.
“I have friends in New England and I’ve been to
that area several times,” she says. “Maybe that’s
why I find the village so enchanting. It certainly brings back
pleasant memories of my travels.”
Bruns chuckles, pointing out her penchant for collecting is
not limited to one village. She added the North Pole series
promoting the legend of Santa Claus as well as the Little Town
of Bethlehem set celebrating “the real reason for the
season” in later years. More than a dozen caroler statues,
each depicting lines of favorite Christmas songs, represent
yet another interest.
Following retirement in 1992, she returned to her native St.
Henry, bringing all the collectibles with her in their original
boxes. She remembers investing considerable time in cataloging
the lot for insurance purposes.
“I would put some of the houses out during the holiday
season and visitors loved them,” she says. “Then
I stopped but they continued asking when the houses were going
up. There just isn’t enough room in my apartment for all
Bruns contacted library officials about hosting her display
during the recent Christmas Tour of Homes and throughout the
holiday season. They quickly offered the inviting adult reading
room as well as a glass display case running the length of the
“I had really good helpers when it came to arranging everything,”
she says. “You should see what lurks beneath these tables.
There is a maze of electric cords because each building has
its own light.”
Bruns vows not to purchase more collectibles. However, a smile
tugs at the corners of her mouth as she speaks about a much-anticipated
trip to the Oak and Barn, a popular Lima-area gift shop.
“Every year I tell myself no more,” she says. “But
I always find at least one or two things I simply can’t
Bruns smiles like a proud mother as visitors pause before her
display and “ooh and aah.”
“Life is supposed to be about sharing,” she says.
“I collect these things because I enjoy them. Now other
people can too.”