A beautiful story from Alabama

Posted: Friday, April 09, 2004

On the WaterfrontBy Elton Engstrom

Since 1963, I've visited Alabama once or twice each year. My wife, Sally, has a farm house there.

We think it was built before the Civil War. We learned, as we removed a portion of siding, that it was a log house, built in the same style as nearly all the early colonial homes were built in America, by bringing logs to the building site and then hewing them with a broadax to make long, stout planks.

Let me share a beautiful story from Alabama that I read in the Alabama Living magazine of December 2003. In the words of J. Kennedy, the writer:

"Visit the east Alabama town of Lanett and ask any person what the town's most famous landmark is and the answer most likely will be 'the dollhouse.'

"You'll have to drive to the city cemetery to see it.

"Visited by thousands of curious sightseers in the past 70 years, the dollhouse is a miniature brick house that encloses the grave of little Nadine Earles.

"As bizarre as the brick building is - situated amidst slabs and headstones near the entrance of Oakwood Cemetery - the story of the little girl it memorializes and her grieving parents is heartbreaking.

"Four years old in 1933, little Nadine asked her parents, J. Comer and Alma Earles, for a dollhouse for Christmas. Her doting daddy assured her she would have her wish and began building one that autumn in his backyard.

"In November the darling little girl with bouncy brown curls was stricken with diphtheria. The area around the Earles' house was roped off and the family was quarantined. Work on the dollhouse came to a halt.

"As the holidays approached, Nadine's condition grew worse when she developed pneumonia. Hoping to boost her spirits, her parents gave her two early Christmas presents - a china tea set and a life-size doll. When her daddy told her she'd get her dollhouse when she was well, her feisty reply was, 'Daddy, me want it now.'

"On Dec. 18, little Nadine died and her daddy's grief set in. Within days after their daughter's death, her parents pledged to honor her final request by giving her the dollhouse she so desperately desired.

"Mr. Earles hired a contractor and work began on the miniature house situated in the oddest of locations. No corners were cut on the stately brick structure that features custom awnings, chimney, sidewalks, front porch and a retaining wall.

"Inside the dollhouse, which invites visitors to peer through its windows, sits the China tea set and life-size doll Nadine received as early Christmas gifts. There's also a doll buggy, the little girl's tricycle and even a Cabbage Patch doll - testimony to the fact that family members continued to provide presents for Little Nadine through the years.

"Atop a miniature fireplace hearth is a framed photograph of the grinning 4-year-old.

"Inscribed on the grave are these words. 'Our Darling Little Girl, Sweetest in the World, Little Nadine Earles. In Heaven we hope to meet. Me want it now.'

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