Winter 2017

|  by Emell Derra Adolphus


Returning Frances Dodge’s playroom at Knole Cottage to its original splendor

Restoring the exact inventory of Frances Dodge’s playroom at Meadow Brook Hall would be an impossible feat, explained Madelyn Rzadkowolski, director of Curatorial Services at Meadow Brook Hall. Frances, the daughter of John and Matilda Dodge (Wilson), took many of her belongings to give to her own children and some were lost as well. But what can be restored in the playroom is its ability to serve as a multipurpose space.

“Oakland University's first employee, engineer George Karas, has said that the playroom was used as a theater. I'd never heard this,” said Rzadkowolski of the space, located on the Hall’s fourth floor and accessed from Frances' bedroom suite by a tiny staircase. But then she saw a picture as proof (shown above). “The photo was from 1964 OU grad Dr. Larry Carey, who took photos of the rooms for Meadow Brook Hall staff in 1972.”

Such photos are instrumental to the Hall’s new Adopt-an-Artifact initiative, explained Rzadkowolski, which aims to restore the room's original splendor and to determine the potential the space has for educational enrichment. Adopt-an-Artifact allows individuals or groups to "adopt" the preservation of a historic object at the Hall, at varying price points.

“It's important for us not only to have a historically representative, engaging room for young visitors to learn in, also for us to grow our collections conservation program, with the help of donations,” said Rzadkowolski. “We've already tackled a couple of the projects in Frances' playroom — like putting the original curtains and window seat cushions back in the room, removing the industrial carpet, refinishing the pine floors, and purchasing an area rug similar to the one that was once in Frances' bedroom.”

Next is to give the playroom an immersive makeover with interactive period-appropriate toys for kids, featuring learning tools like Google Cardboard and a 3D printer — all to further inform visitors about the Dodge/Wilson family’s innovative contributions to early 20th-century American country estate living.

“Matilda and Alfred Wilson believed so much in education that they made the visionary philanthropic gift that is today Oakland University,” said Rzadkowolski. In honor of this, the Adopt-an-Artifact program is committed to transforming their home into a place of engagement and education for the next generation of OU students, alumni and the community.

For more information and to donate to the restoration of Frances' playroom, contact Madelyn Rzadkowolski at (248) 364-6253 or [email protected]