A Mite Christmas

Push open the creaky picket-fenced gate at the Pearce-McAllister Cottage, walk up the garland-adorned porch steps and step through the front door into a bygone era. You can almost smell the cookies baking in the kitchen and see Dad in the parlor with his pipe and evening paper.

Located in Capitol Hill, the 103-year-old structure houses the Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls and Toys. This time of year, the museum's staff is gearing up for the American Holidays Celebration, an exhibition that combines elements of Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. Tiny poinsettias, stockings, menorahs and nutcrackers -- along with a few snowmen -- grace the scaled-down dwellings inside the fifteen-room structure. "The details on these houses are just amazing," says Bevyn L. Hazelwood, executive director and curator of the museum.

Much of the display feels contemporary to the Victorian-style cottage itself, although there are exceptions. In the center of the living room, for example, is a two-foot-by-three-foot "Someday House," a miniature of the Tudor-style house in which donor Bets O'Meara grew up. There's also a German mini-haus from the 1700s. In addition, the maze-like rooms contain giant teddy bears (stuffed in the former bathroom, oddly enough), train sets and more attractions. With all of these collectibles behind glass, curators are aware that the urge to touch is strong, so several stations offer hands-on opportunities for kids to rearrange furniture or build with blocks.

Trinkets from around the world, ranging from Native American kachinas to Japanese friendship dolls, showcase many cultures, one of the museum's missions. "We just like to help people learn about other parts of the world," says Hazelwood. To that end, the institution offers classes on how to create Guatemalan worry dolls and Japanese paper people; next month, however, the focus is on winter and the holidays, with workshops on how to build mouse-sized gingerbread houses.

Among twinkling little lights, tiny velvet chairs and diminutive blazing fires, a timeless season has arrived.

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Julie Dunn
Contact: Julie Dunn