It is the most unlikely place to find an ornate Victorian dollhouse. Furnished with small wooden furniture pieces and dolls, the hand-built house sits amid thousands of grave markers dating into the 1800s in Connersville’s city cemetery.
Connersville residents have called it “the little house that heartache built.” But when it comes down to it, the dollhouse story is really just a love story, plain and simple.
When Vivian May Allison died unexpectedly in 1899 at the age of 5, her parents decided to build her the dollhouse she had always wanted and fill it with some of her favorite dolls and toys. Her father, Horace, did most of the building, while her mother, Carrie, made curtains for the windows and a rug for the floor.
“It means everything to Connersville,” says town historian Patricia Summan. “It is a big draw for people to come in and see it, visit the town.” The house has fallen into disrepair several times during the past century, sparking volunteers from the town to save it. They, too, do it for love, even though they didn’t know Vivian.
Donna Scott spent several weeks toiling around the house last fall, stripping off layers of paint, caulking windows and painting it back to its original white color. She and her husband were careful to preserve the original nails, woodwork and tin roof. She says she couldn’t bear to watch the dollhouse fade away.
During her time with the house, Scott says, she was mystified by all the myths that had grown around it. “Some rather grisly,” she says. “People would stop by and ask questions. Some would swear the poor little girl haunts the house.” But after three weeks and no sightings, Scott says she can reassure people the little girl’s soul is at rest.