Saturday, January 12, 2008

KARL FEY'S "DIME STORE DWELLINGS" by Steve Savage "King of the Beasts"

Approximately two years ago, Martha Stewart's Living Magazine did a feature story on "Dime Store Christmas Houses" and directed readers to a Web site dedicated to them, called "Papa Ted's Place" featuring:

The site recounts the history of the houses and gives information on their value at auction on the Internet.

The original cardboard houses, some made in Japan, as well as America, date back to 1928. At the time, they cost less than a dollar for a whole town at dime and department stores, like F.W. Woolworth's, as well as from various mail-order catalogs of the day, including the Charles Williams catalog out of New York, and the Sears and Roebuck catalog. Now the houses are extremely rare and are valued according to condition, but usually are found in groups for hundreds of dollars.

While a great many have attempted to reproduce the quality, craftsmanship, and appeal to the nostalgic interests of collectors of these beautiful time-frozen memories, only one creative genius has managed to captivate and enthrall the hearts of those who refuse to settle for anything less than perfection.

That gifted and talented artist is Karl Fey who, incidentally, is the nephew of Hank Fey, a member of our Army Security Agency Kagnew Station Guard Group, and cousin of 2008 Golden Globe Winner,Tina Fey, the brilliant writer, actress, director, etc., of TV's Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock.

When you visit Karl's web site, and see his unparalleled work, you will understand very clearly why his two year absence from this art form was sorely missed and why his return is being applauded so loudly.

Nostalgic Tableaus seem to be the domain of the Fey family. Karl's grandfather was Chief Electrician and creator of the internationally renowned Annual Christmas Railroad display of John Wanamaker's Department Store in Philadelphia.

Following in that tradition, Karl's Uncle Hank and father, Karl, did this Trolley Display (photo) for Rohm & Haas and have been commissioned to create an even more impressive display for their 100th Anniversay, to be celebrated in 2009.

Absolutely amazed at the level and diversity of artistry and creativity possessed by, from what I can determine, every member of the Fey family, I had to ask Hank, "From whom and where did all this originate?"

His reply was, "Where does it all come from? I trace it back to my great grandfather Charles Fey: ex-soldier in the Kaiser's army, toy maker extraordinaire, and - from what I can gather - all around Bohemian. Apparently the Germanic toy making tradition runs strong in our family and we just do what comes naturally. You might say we're modern day elves."

So there you have it. Five generations of the Fey family, whose creative genius, knowledge, skills, creativity, and unexcelled pride in craftsmanship, have been handed down from father to son over the past several centuries, safeguarding a tradition of creating rare, limited art forms that will continue to grow in beauty and value with each passing year.

Karl Fey says he will try to make his creations available on a limited basis, possibly by this coming March, 2008! Keep watching his web site. There will be limited numbers available on a first-come, first served basis and when the supply is gone that will be it until further notice.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Reviving these "little houses" has captured the spirit of the Christmas season for many who have not felt that spirit in a long, long time. This is a great feat in itself considering that things such as merchandising, holiday movies, well intentioned parents, and even religion have failed to provide. A time capsule filled with Christmas Spirit! Not since "It's a Wonderful Life"... I digress.
This article fails to mention the genius behind Papa Ted's Place who documented and laboriously researched the homes of the fantasy world. Like Thomas Edison being credited with the first light bulb and Columbus discovering America, events have a way of blurring the truth. Had Papa Ted aka, Ted Althof not represented his knowledge and years of collecting at his website,,these homes may have been lost like a condemned historical landmark. Thank you Papa Ted for extending your version of the true spirit of Christmas to the rest of the world.