Someone in 2016 decorated it with Christmas lights.
While visiting family recently in Cincinnati, I googled “miniature stuff to do in Cincinnati,” as one does. But instead of finding exhibitions or museums, I found a rather peculiar blog post from 2014 about a tombstone in the shape of a dollhouse. After determining that it was only a short drive from my dad’s apartment, I ushered my puzzled family into the car and took them to St. Joseph’s New Cemetery.
The tombstone wasn’t hard to find. It sort of… stands out.
John Keating, a stone mason in Cincinnati, built the gravestone in the late 1860s to commemorate his daughter, Mary Julia (1867 -1868), his son Eddie (1874 -1876), and his niece Mary Agnes Keating (1875 -1876). He also crafted stone furniture, although little of it remains today. He carved the words “To Our Little Darlings,” below which he transcribed this tragic poem:
“One by one our leaves are falling, fading day by day, and in silence heaven is calling, one by one our lambs away.”
Today, the dollhouse interior suffers a unique melange of crumbling stone, rusted Christmas ornaments, and overturned miniature furniture. At first glance, it feels like a toy graveyard inside a real one.
And yet, as my sister reminded me, each of these tiny items were placed there by people, and probably children, on their way to visit a loved-one’s grave. Someone cared so much they even strung up Christmas lights. The dollhouse tombstone has become a living memorial site for this community, and perhaps a small cathartic release.
We did our best to brush away some of the debris and set straight the overturned furniture, as I’m sure a million people have done before us. An old mini painting was rotting in its frame, so I pulled apart the paper and left the gold frame mounted on a tiny cupboard. Next time I’m in town, I plan to leave behind a miniature token of my own.
(If you’re interested in the topic, also check out this article from House Crazy. There are more dollhouse tombstones in the world than you might think.)