“the sweetest grave you've ever seen”
America's home to some unforgettably beautiful cemeteries, and some equally beautiful gravestones. Some are amazing marvels in engineering, and others are heart-clenching memorials to dearly departed loved ones. There a quite a few "dollhouse graves" across the country, some are made out of stone, others are only seasonal decorations, and many are permanent fixtures, lovingly cared for. The most famous dollhouse memorial is known as Little Nadine’s Playhouse Mausoleum, and is located at the Oakwood Cemetery in Lanette, Alabama. Nadine Earles died in 1933, from diphtheria only one week before Christmas. According to the legend, the dollhouse was built by Nadine’s father and was meant to be a Christmas gift, but when the little girl died before the present could be given, it was mounted on the grave to keep her spirit company. -Roadtrippers Little Nadine Earles died of diphtheria a week before Christmas 1933. She was only four years old. Driving along First Street in Lanett, Alabama a miniature red-brick house, about 5 feet tall, can be seen less than 50 feet from the road. Complete with windows, a fireplace, a miniature front porch and even a mailbox, it is the epitome of every young girl’s dream dollhouse. Upon first glance, it looks like the perfect place in which young children can play make believe. But upon second glance, anyone who sees this dollhouse will realize something unusual. It is not in a family’s backyard, but in a cemetery. A closer look at the dollhouse in Oakwood Cemetery reveals that it houses the grave of Nadine Earles. According to the Alabama Currents magazine article, by Lanett City Hall Human Resource Manager Jennie Gunnells, published in 2010, Nadine was diagnosed with diphtheria, a contagious respiratory tract infection, in November 1933. Her health worsened quickly when she contracted pneumonia a few weeks later. For early Christmas gifts, Nadine’s parents, Julian Comer and Alma Earles, gave her a doll and a tea set. However, Nadine was not satisfied with those. She really wanted a playhouse, a project her father had started to build and planned to give her on Christmas. Nadine replied to the incompletion of her beloved dollhouse with four simple words. “Me want it now.” Her response would never escape her father’s mind and is inscribed on the tombstone inside the dollhouse, which reads: “Our Darling Little Girl, Sweetest In The World April 3rd, 1929 – December 18th, 1933. Little Nadine Earles In Heaven We Hope To Meet ‘Me Want It Now.’” Linda Fulcher, who has lived in Lanett most of her life, said, “Mr. Comer Earles, her dad, wanted to build her a dollhouse. “He was a really great carpenter and just a really nice person, and he started it, I understand, at their home somewhere down close to the church. “But he did not get to finish it, because he just ran out of time, and she was just really wanting that dollhouse soon.” Fulcher’s parents were friends of the Earles. “It was always a joy to see him [Julian Comer Earles] come on the porch. “He was a very, very nice person, and you know that entire family was that way too, and I’m sure Nadine would have been also,” Fulcher said. Just shy of Christmas on Dec. 18, 1933, Nadine died when she was just 4 years old. She never got to play in the dollhouse she longed for, but Nadine’s parents were determined to finish it. “He [Comer Earles] wanted Nadine to have that dollhouse,” Fulcher said. “And so from there it came.” According to a Valley Times-News article, by Jim Watson, published in 1989, the partially finished playhouse was transferred to Oakwood cemetery, and Nadine’s parents hired a contractor to complete it. Nadine’s wish was granted in the spring of 1934. She finally had the dollhouse she always wanted. Her parents filled the dollhouse with toys and continued to for years after Nadine’s death. The woman in charge of decorating Nadine’s grave the past seven years, JoAnn Lewis, said, “There were skates in there, you know just anything that was popular that year. “The parents, they did it. “She never grew up in their minds. “They did it as what her age was when she died.” Looking inside of the dollhouse from its front door, Nadine’s tombstone lies on the right, and there is a fireplace, no taller than 1 foot, on the left wall. The house’s original blue-concrete floor was replaced with light-blue carpet. Currently, a navy-blue and white tea-set, a doll dressed in a red and white cloak, and two teddy bears wearing knitted-yarn clothing sit on the tombstone. A miniature red tricycle and other baby dolls are among some of the other toys in the dollhouse. “One year we were riding around to see the Christmas lights, and I was probably 6. “And I remember thinking, and this is just being a child, ‘Look at all those toys and nobody’s playing with them.’ “That was the most fascinating thing to me that those toys were in there,” Gunnells said. Also, on the window sill above the tombstone, is a picture of the children in Nadine’s class visiting the site for her birthday party many years ago. According to Watson’s Valley Times-News article, “On April 3 of that year—on what would have been Nadine’s fifth birthday—a party was held in the cemetery…They sang, had ice cream and bade their friend goodbye.” Not only have Nadine’s friends and family visited the grave, but many Lanett residents, who never knew her, have visited Nadine and her dollhouse as well. “Usually, in the afternoons when I drive by, I see someone just looking [at the house],” Lewis said. Fulcher said that when she was growing up she and her friends used to ride their bicycles over to the cemetery on Christmas just to see what dolls and other toys Nadine got that year. And children are still visiting Nadine’s grave. According to Lewis, she has found candy, money and letters left by children for Nadine. “They’d say I love you Nadine,” Lewis said. “They don’t know her, but they do that.” Just last Christmas, Nadine’s mailbox was stuffed with letters from visitors, Lewis said. Not only has the dollhouse attracted local visitors, but people from all over the country are interested in Nadine’s story. Publications such as the Weekly World News tabloid and Juneau Empire, Alaska’s capital online newspaper, have featured articles about Nadine’s dollhouse. “It’s just amazing that it has gone all over the world,” Fulcher said. Members of the community have chipped in to make sure that Nadine’s renowned dollhouse looks its best and stays in good condition. Lewis has continued the tradition of decorating the dollhouse that the Town and Country Garden Club of Lanett started. The dollhouse is decorated for seasons and holidays, especially Christmas. For Christmas, Lewis puts a small tree inside and a tea set on the fireplace mantel. Occasionally, she puts candles in the windows, and icicle lights are strung around Nadine’s dollhouse as well. Also, contractors have repainted Nadine’s dollhouse, inside and out, since 1933, Lewis explained. Besides the repainting and addition of blue carpet, few things have changed in Lanett’s favorite dollhouse since its completion nearly 77 years ago. A picture of Nadine used to hang above the fireplace in her dollhouse that is no longer there. The black and white picture highlighted her large toothless smile and her bouncy brunette curls. Also, in the house’s yard fenced off by bricks, there are two major additions. Julian Earles’ grave, inscribed with “Daddy Of Little Nadine,” and Alma Earles’ grave, inscribed with “Mama Of Little Nadine,” each lie beside Nadine’s. “It’s amazing how it just stands so beautifully. When you come over the little hill there it’s the first thing you see in the cemetery,” Fulcher said.
Beautiful Story , brings tears to my eyes...:)
A very unique stop on our trip from the Carolina's to Louisiana.
Very cute and interesting to see. Make sure you read the back story!! Not sure kids would like the stop, but we enjoyed peeking in the window!
Be the first to add a review to the Little Nadine’s Playhouse Mausoleum.
Little Nadine’s Playhouse Mausoleum
Hours not available
Is there a problem with this listing? Let us know.
Not Wheelchair Accessible
No Public Restrooms