The mansion is getting some face-lifts.

Phase I
The ballroom floor:

Phase II
Repointing the mansion
and Improving the
drainage on the right side.

Phase III
Replacing the windows
and shutters:

The chapel is available for rentals thru the Parks Dept., call 410-396-7900
Due to upcoming construction, the ballroom of the Orianda House will not be available for rentals.
Rentals at Orianda house and the chapel in Leakin Park

The Dolls

by Bernice Millman

How a pair of dolls found their way from mid-19th century St. Petersburg, Russia to an estate in Baltimore offers a fascinating glimpse into the history of both Czar Nicholas II and Ross Winans.

In the mid-1800's, Czar Nicholas I required a railroad be built connecting St. Petersburg to Moscow. To facilitate this undertaking, the Czar called upon a brilliant and talented American railroad engineer, Ross Winans. Thinking the task better suited to younger men, Mr. Winans turned the job over to his two sons, Thomas DeKay and William Louis. Both of these equally talented men worked with their father in his railroad construction venture and were well schooled in the art of building not only railroads but the trains that ran on the tracks.

Joining forces with the engineering firm of Harrison & Eastwick of Philadelphia in 1844, the younger Winans men set up shop in Alexandrofsky, just outside of St. Petersburg. Millions were amassed by the Winans brothers during the years spent in Russia. While still in Europe, Thomas DeKay met and married Celeste Revillon, a Russian beauty of French and Italian descent.

Upon returning to Baltimore with his bride, Thomas DeKay set about building two estates befitting his lofty station. A mansion house called Alexandrofsky, named as a tribute to the Czar, was erected in downtown Baltimore. Town gossip had it that the finest appointments imported from Europe could be found on display there. It was at Alexandrofsky that a daughter, Marguerite Celeste, was born and reared.

The second home meant for summer occupancy was erected on a thousand acres in West Baltimore. This estate became known as Crimea and the mansion was called Orianda. On the grounds not far from the mansion, a large playhouse was erected as an overnight birthday surprise for young Marguerite Celeste. The child spent many happy hours playing here surrounded by her dolls and child sized furniture.

As a token of his esteem for Thomas DeKay, Czar Nicholas II presented him with a pair of elaborately dressed dolls probably meant as a gift to Marguerite Celeste. The dolls, a 16” man and his lady companion, who measures 14” appear to be “one of a kind” and were obviously commissioned to be dressed in a very special way to be donated to Mr. Winans. It appears the dolls were never played with by the child they were meant for; hence these treasures have been found in excellent and original condition.

The head of each doll is made of paper mache' with hand painted features. French paperweight eyes of a pale blue shade are accentuated by heavily painted lashes and one stroke brows. The lips are pale pink and the cheeks are blushed to match. The lady has side-parted blonde human hair, swept to the back on both sides, ending in a single heavy braid. The man has a human hair wig of deep chestnut brown that is styled with a bang. His long hair hangs loosely around his face. The bodies of both dolls are of cloth and stuffed with straw. Lower arms and legs are composition.

The clothing worn by this pair indicates that they are of upper class Russian society, perhaps even, royalty. Rich silks and velvets decorated with extravagant gold embroidery best describes the elegance of their dress. The man wears black "leather" boots and the lady has molded and painted high-heeled button shoes. The man's ears are pierced indicating that he was originally meant to be a female but was dressed instead as a man. Strangely, the lady's ears are not pierced. The gentleman wears a "fur" hat and she carries a very detailed silk head dress that matches her gown. The lady originally wore a lovely lace apron but it is now gone missing.

The dolls are made either in France or Germany. It is difficult to determine their origin without removing all the clothing and perhaps destroying the integrity of the dolls. I was able to move aside a bit of clothing on the upper torso of the lady. Revealed to me was a stamped ink marking that can best be described as two circles intertwined. Inside each circle is a profile portrait, perhaps of the Czar and Czarina. Russian words or letters that I cannot read surround the circles.

Marguerite Celeste married an aristocratic American, Guan Hutton. They divided their time between estates in Newport, Alexandrofsky and Crimea. Their granddaughter, Celeste Winans Hutton recalls many happy hours spent in the playhouse at Crimea. She does not, however, recall playing with the two Russian dolls. She has a recollection of the dolls being kept on display in a glass case in the "big" house.

An auction held in 1950 dispersed some of the Winans effects. The dolls were among these effects. They were purchased and treasured by Anne F. Campbell. When her estate was auctioned off several years ago, I was the lucky bidder and became custodian of these dolls.

It is with great pleasure that I lend these dolls to be displayed during the 150th Anniversary Celebration of Crimea.