Posted Online: May 14, 2013, 9:53 pm

Mansion in miniature takes 5 years to complete

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By Leon Lagerstam, llagerstam@qconline.com

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Photo: Paul Colletti
Shelva King looks through one set of French doors on the miniature house she built in her basement in East Moline. It took Ms. King five years to make the highly detailed house that has working lights, three different doorbells, a working television and landscaping.
More photos from this shoot
Photo: Paul Colletti
A two-story twisting staircase rises form a parquet wood floor inside the miniature house that Shelva King built.
More photos from this shoot
Photo: Paul Colletti
Working light fixtures illuminate the individually designed rooms.
More photos from this shoot
Photo: Paul Colletti
Shelva King's landscaped miniature mansion.
Building a 200-pound "miniature" dollhouse was no small feat forShelva King.

It took the 73-year-old East Moline woman five years to make the replica plantation mansion that awed fellow members of the Metro Mini Makers of the Quad-Cities Club, which will hold Miniatures from the Heart of the Country this weekend.

The show will be open from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the RiverCenter, 136 E. 3rd St., Davenport. Admission is $5 for adults and $2 for children ages 2-12.

Besides multiple displays, there will be 20 miniature-supply dealers from 10 states, raffles and a drawing for a dollhouse. Proceeds willbenefit Winnie's Place and other local domestic violence shelters for women and children.

Club secretary Jo Cohrs said there will beminiatures of all scale on exhibit.For example, one group will exhibit "1:144 Dutch Baby Houses," which have six rooms filled with furniture in 1-inch scale, while another display will include a 1/4-inch scale "Little Old Woman In a Shoe," she said.

Mrs. King's plantation won't be there, because it would be too difficult to transport. But club members drew inspiration from it and wanted to give her a special salute for her efforts.

"Shelva's attention to detail was truly inspiring," Ms. Cohrs said, "from beautiful hostas and a huge tree in the front yard to all the barbecue foods on the grill on the patio."

The miniature mansion is about 63 inches wide and 38 inches tall, Mrs. King said. It sits on a specially built table that includes landscaping, a driveway, sidewalk and a grotto with cement benches.

A miniature Mercedes Benz is parked in the driveway, and a mastiff guards the front door. Chickadees and blue jays rest in nearby trees, and a crow and a dove sit atop the roof.

Mrs. King's late husband, John King, contributed a miniature squirrel, "because he knew how much I like to feed the real ones that come up to our house. I wish he were here to see the completed project."

Years ago, one of their daughters bought Mr. King a dollhouse kit, thinking he needed something to do, "but he didn't have the patience for it," Mrs. King said. "It was that first kit, though, that got me hooked. It takes a lot of time and work, but it's really habit-forming."

She spent a lot of time researching and looking for the "perfect" mansion to build, and picked one that had curved staircases, which she always wanted.

All the interior lights work, a fireplace flickers, ceiling fans spin in the conservatory, and a television lights up and plays the ESPN theme music, she said.

A refrigerator in the kitchen is full of food, and a knife drawer contains miniature knives.

Mounted animal heads hang on walls. A cat rests in a girl's bedroom, and tiny children's books lay scattered on a mattress. There's also a miniature dollhouse inside the mansion dollhouse.

Small photos on walls include three of Mrs. King's four grandchildren. Her youngest, an 11-month-old, will be added soon, she said.

Doorbells sound three tones, depending on which of the mansion's three doors you try, she said.

Mrs. King worked on the plantation while employed part time as a pharmacist at Green Park Pharmacy in Colona. She recently got a certificate signed by Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad marking her 50th year of licensure -- no small feat; but neither was her "huge miniature" mansion.