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Miniatures at the Library

Libraries are a source for reading and listening material and they often hold community events and offer temporary exhibits of art and other media. Most public libraries do not have a permanent exhibit of dollhouses or miniatures. The Mountain Lakes Library in Mountain Lakes, New Jersey is the exception. This fairly small library is the permanent home of the Craven Miniature Rooms which were created by the late Edgar Craven.

The Craven Miniature Rooms are made up of six shadow boxes with miniature displays that Edgar Craven created and designed in 1940. All of the miniature items are scaled to the popular 1:12 scale. Edgar Craven was a well known banker for most of his life, working in Manhattan and living in Mountain Lakes. When he retired he got into the world of art and became fascinated by the world of miniatures and dollhouses. The rooms and settings he built reflect his dedication to detail which elevated his miniatures to an art form. Each room has a mood that likens the small designs to a set design.

One room depicts Craven’s art studio at his home. The room includes a detailed reproduction of the interior of the art studio and a view of the garden outside. The tiny oil paintings in this room and in the other three were all painted by Craven himself and illustrate his skill as an artist. Three of the rooms are Craven’s interpretation of the doll house rooms created by Mrs. James Ward Thorne. The miniature Thorne rooms are on permanent exhibit at the Chicago Art Institute. Craven had first learned of the famous Thorne rooms when they were first displayed at the 1933 Century of Progress Exhibition in Chicago. In Craven’s interpretations of Thorne’s Tudor Hall, Tudor Bedroom and a New York contemporary room, Craven added his own and other paintings including copies of work by Franz Hals, de Hoock and Van Dyck.

The final room is of an imaginary Spanish Patio, which was inspired by Craven’s many trips to Arizona. The room displays typical Spanish style architecture including a tiled patio with a garden, stucco walls, carved wood detailing, rattan furniture, and clay pots. Craven also provided a look to the outside desert complete with cacti and other desert blooming plants.

The Craven Miniature Rooms have been made available to the public as a permanent library exhibit through a donation from the Town Club of Mountain Lakes and through the dedication and work of volunteers who moved and reassembled the rooms and who clean and refurbish the rooms as needed.

The Mountain Lakes Library has been in existence since December 1914 and was opened by the Mountain Lakes Woman’s Club and located at the Lake Drive School building. In 1954 the library moved to its present location at 3 Elm Road in Mountain Lakes.

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