Walking into the home of Nancie Purdy and her husband, Henry, is as if you’re walking into a magical museum. Unlike a museum, though, Nancie’s collection is very personal to her. Her expansive collection began when Nancie bought her very first little Christmas house 39 years ago, in 1978. Since that day many years ago, her collection has grown a lot — she’s not sure how many houses she has now. Nancie laughingly explained, “My friend actually counted and she gave up after 100!” The first little house she bought was at a store called Calico Butterflies, which has since closed down. She found many other pieces of her collection at Goldsmith’s or Dillard’s. These houses are now sprinkled all across her home: on her living room mantle, in her dining room cabinets, atop her kitchen cabinets, and more. She asks her husband to turn on the lights in the kitchen and, all of a sudden, the lights in each house begin to glow, making it a gorgeous sight. “They’re very addictive, these little houses are,” she said. She hasn’t bought a new little house in a few years. When asked if she missed it, she laughed. “Yeah, but I don’t have anywhere to put them anymore! I’ve run out of room!”
Most of Nancie’s houses are historical. For many of the homes that are featured in famous literature, she sets the home atop its corresponding novel. In her dining room cabinet, sitting in the center among countless other houses, is Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon home, as well as Shakespeare’s theater. Displayed nearby are the Von Trapp castle, church, and the gazebo featured in the beloved movie, The Sound of Music. In another china cabinet on the other side of the dining room, there is a house based on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol - it sits on top of the book The Man Who Invented Christmas. She explains, “That book has even been signed by one of Dickens’ ancestors.” She also has Aunt Polly’s home from the book of Tom Sawyer. As we continue through her room, we head into the living room, where the living room mantle is covered in little Christmas houses placed on top of fluffy white cotton “snow,” with a small sign reading “Alpine Village.” In the very front of the village are three houses with their white snow-covered roofs. One of these houses sits upon a plaque with the name “Thomas Kinkade” written in black lettering - the famous painter who lived from 1958 to 2012. In another cabinet in her living room are more houses, including a house featured in another Dickens’ novel Great Expectations. She also has a replica of Victoria Station, the central London railway, and the famous Kensington Palace, the home of many famous British royalty, such as the late Princess Diana. Also featured throughout her home are several beaming lighthouses. “What can I say, I have a thing for lighthouses,” Nancie laughs.
“This,” she says, pointing to a gorgeous, white palace, “this is the Buckingham Palace.” She also points to a replica of the Tower of London and of Big Ben, the House of Parliament’s iconic clock tower found in London. “This over here is the Observer over in England.”
Nancie has gradually built up her collection over the years, typically only buying about one or two houses at a time. However, she tells the story of how she once ended up coming home with five new houses. “I went into Goldsmith’s one day and they had five houses, and those five houses weren’t even $100. So I bought all five!” she said. “But,” she emphasized, “I don’t buy to sell. I buy to keep.”
Displayed in a room in the corner of her house are even more collectables. In a cabinet, there are dozens of interesting figurines. Nancie explains that these were Hummel collectables that she primarily collected in the 1960’s during her time spent in Germany as her husband served for the Army. “I love my Hummels,” she said as she explained the unique context behind each piece.
Nancie’s love for her collection of little houses really shines when she is asked about them. She lovingly showed me her grandson’s favorite piece, the North Pole, that she plans to pass onto him one day. “I just love my little houses,” she said at the end of the interview. This love filled her home with the glimmering lights of countless little houses, each unique and with its own rich history.