The Friedman Miniature House Gallery

When Aaron Friedman sold his business in the late 1970s, he began looking for “something to do” in his spare time. His daughter-in-law suggested that he “build a dollhouse” for his oldest granddaughter. That project took on a life of its own that occupied a significant portion of the last 20 years of Aaron’s life.

Ultimately, Aaron built the eight magnificent miniature houses that are now located at the History Museum of Mobile – one for each of his granddaughters and one for his wife, Sarah. Each house is built to exacting one-inch-to-one-foot scale and took a year or more to plan and build. For two of the houses, Friedman copied actual houses in Mobile (the “Tacon-Tissington-Barfield” and “McGowin-Creary” houses on Government Street).

Architectural details are impressive in their detail. Each house has siding made of real wood, real fired bricks, or hand-cast stone tiles; a roof made asphalt or clay tile shingles or metal panels, doors and windows that open and close, and a working electrical system for the tiny lamps and chandeliers, all of which light up.

Aaron and Sarah collaborated to plan, furnish, and decorate the interior design of each house. The décor of rooms is always in the style of the house, ranging from ornate wallpapers and fabrics and massive furniture in the Victorian era house to contemporary colors in the modern homes.

It’s hard to believe the tiny accessories that one might find when looking closely. There are china table settings in the dining room, canned and boxed foods in kitchen cabinets, fresh fruits and vegetables sitting out on a butcher block, potted plants and handmade flower arrangements, tiny figurines and cloisonné vases, and elegant artwork hanging on the walls. But it’s the small touches that give the homey, “lived in” atmosphere to each of Friedman’s miniature houses: a pair of eyeglasses left casually atop a book, actual family portraits, newspapers, magazines, and books sitting on bedside tables, stuffed toys strewn on the nursery floor, bedroom slippers at the foot of the bed, and monogrammed towels in the bathroom. As a final touch, each house features a photo of the “owner” over the fireplace or on a bedroom dresser. Can you find the photo in each house?

Sarah Friedman made the petit point rugs found in each house, numerous needlepoint and cross-stitch pillows, chair cushions, and wall hangings, as well as other interior details such as the luxurious, fluffy towels for the bathrooms. A family friend, Pearl Brook, made many of the window treatments, bedspreads, and other details found throughout each of the eight houses.