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Playhouse returns home

April 25, 2012
Jenn Brookens - Staff Writer , Fairmont Sentinel

ARMSTRONG - The sunny little playhouse that sits behind the gazebo on Armstrong's main street has a century-long history in northern Iowa. Now it is only a block away from its original location.

The playhouse's restoration and new home at the Armstrong Heritage Museum was celebrated in a dedication ceremony Tuesday.

"Our grandfather built that house for our mother, Amelia, when she was only 4 years old in 1904," said Richard Manthe, the eldest of Amelia's three sons. "It was just a block off of Main Street."

Article Photos

?The late Amelia Manthe’s sons pose outside the playhouse built for their mother by their grandfather. The playhouse is now back in Armstrong.

All three sons were on hand Tuesday for the dedication.

Amelia Manthe's family moved away when she was a teen, but the playhouse stayed behind.

"As late as 1970, the playhouse was on the original property," said Donald Manthe, another son. "But then it disappeared."

But Amelia never forgot about the playhouse. In fact, it was one of the last things she mentioned when she passed away at the age of 106.

"She had told her sons, 'Wouldn't it be great if we could find my old playhouse again?'" said Paula Dyer, president of the Armstrong Heritage Museum.

The family had looked for the house, but it was difficult with all three sons living out of state. A photo of the playhouse was donated to the Armstrong Heritage Museum, which also became involved in locating the Manthe playhouse.

Distant relatives of Amelia continued the search and, after a few years, they received a lead that took them to Ledyard. The large playhouse was not seen in the town, but a few inquiries led them to Joy and Robby Gelhaus of rural Lakota.

"We had gotten it for our daughter when she was 2 years old," said Joy Gelhaus, who attended the dedication ceremony.

Gelhaus admitted it took a long time to be convinced to sell the playhouse.

"It took about three years of negotiations," she said. "We finally sold it when our daughter graduated high school ... We had just reshingled it, because we had plans of restoring it ourselves."

As it turned out, the playhouse had undergone a few moves between the time it disappeared from its original location. One family had purchased it for their young girls, while another woman used it to house a kiln for her ceramic business.

The playhouse was finally moved back to Armstrong in 2010. A complete renovation was done inside and out. Two special items, Amelia's original doll and the doll bed, made by her father, are on display in the house.

"Seeing the house the way it is today would've made [our mother] the happiest old lady in the world," Donald said.



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