Written by Panorama resident, Gail Madden. Photos by April Works. May 2018
As Panorama renews and renovates, you can hear the sounds of construction and renewal across the campus. But that’s not the only construction happening here and not the only place homes are being built. When Portland native Harold Rorden retired from his career in air traffic control, he originally moved to Lake Cushman and built a home with a big garage and workshop. When he sold that home and relocated to Panorama in 2005, he was looking for a hobby – and activity – to fill his time. He discovered the woodshop and found a great spirit of camaraderie among the team working there. He also caught sight of a half-finished doll-house and he says, “That got me hooked.”
Most mornings you can find Harold down in the woodshop on the lower level of the Quinault putting together some very precious and special homes. Long before plastic Barbie and her cardboard world became popular, little girls were entertained for hours on end with their doll houses and the furniture and imaginary families they installed in them. These miniature houses originated about 400 years ago in Germany where their purpose was to entertain the children of the wealthy and privileged. Even today, girls feel very special when they’re presented with handmade dollhouses they can furnish and decorate. And now boys can enjoy these miniature structures too. There are horse stables and general stores as well as the traditional homes.
Harold takes great care in the construction of his dollhouses and as he says, “They start as kits, but I like to improve on the recipe.” Each house takes two to three months to complete and has custom touches for both the exterior and interior. Some are free-standing and others can be made to be wall-mounted in a child’s bedroom or playroom. They usually have a porch and sometimes a porch swing so the doll family can enjoy a restful afternoon outside their home. Other custom touches include the wallpaper, tile floors and, of course, the color scheme. His construction projects are a labor of love and while they are for sale, the cost is only for materials, not for the labor that goes into making these wonderful playthings.
Harold donates a number of his completed dollhouses to the Stiles-Beach Barn where they are on display and available for purchase with the proceeds going to the Panorama Benevolent Fund. If you have a moment, check out the houses currently on display at the Barn. Perhaps you have a grand or a great-grand who would be thrilled to find a custom dollhouse under the tree this Christmas.
Because they take time to construct, it is never too early for a parent or grandparent to think about that special Christmas or birthday gift of a custom constructed dollhouse. Contacting Harold Rorden, the architect of these fantastical structures, allows you to pre-order your custom touches to personalize the gift. He’d love to help you make that special little girl or boy a present that will be treasured for years to come.