Beverly Lenox has more woodworking tools in her garage than the average 76-year-old woman.
Many more. In fact, she’s done more carpentry than some carpenters.
“I use about half common sense and half trial and error,” she said, strolling around her varnish-smelling garage one Wednesday morning pointing out her various power tools: a router, industrial-sized compressor and a hefty bench-set chop saw. “This one’s my favorite.”
And they’ve all gone to good use. Over 12 years in her Amsterdam home she’s replaced nearly everything, mostly with things she built herself.
Fixing up the house
Recently though, she’s been consumed by a much smaller project.
“I’m obsessed by this thing,” she said, motioning to a large, semi-completed dollhouse. “I was up till two this morning working on it.”
Of course, with all her carpentry experience it’s a great dollhouse capable of sheltering scores of Barbies in comfort. But it holds much more than dolls. It holds 51 years of family history.
“My cat Aphrodite had a litter of kittens in the kitchen,” said Shirley Prahl, Beverly’s sister visiting from her home on the other side of Amsterdam. “My youngest once slept a night in the living room.”
Back in 1962 Beverly worked for U.S. Plywood and got a whole load of the stuff on heavy discount. Shirley lived with her daughters in Schenectady at the time and Beverly figured they needed a dollhouse.
“I remember when it arrived,” Shirley said. “She came with our father and a truck. My girls were so surprised.”
A lot’s happened since then. Both sisters moved a handful of times all over the country: Beverly to Ohio with her husband William’s job at Armco Steel, Shirley to Florida, Colorado and a few other spots, traveling with the dollhouse.
Now with both their husbands passed away, they’ve settled in Amsterdam. Years of children and travel took their toll on the old dollhouse as well.
“There were just splinters all over the place,” Beverly Lenox said. “Dings and holes everywhere. I don’t think it was really child safe.”
When Shirley’s five-year-old granddaughter Jessica Bonicki, who recently moved with her parents to Schenectady, found the house while snooping around her grandma’s attic, Beverly figured it was time for a remodel.
In 50 years, her woodworking skills have improved substantially. Fiddling with a tiny staircase railing Wednesday morning, she was pretty critical of her past work.
“There wasn’t any trim, and this staircase was totally plain,” she said. “I’m trying to dress it up.”
The remodel added tile on the bathroom floor, brand new hardwood stairs much like the ones she put in her own house last spring, trim to cover the splintering plywood corners and even a tiny stained-glass window.
“I think I’ve been at Home Depot every day since I started this,” she said. “I need to get done with it so I can replace the baseboard in my own kitchen.”
All the dollhouse needs at this point is a layer of texture-painted shingles on the roof and it will be ready.
Little Jessica has been in the dark, not allowed into Shirley’s attic since the sisters snuck it out weeks ago. Beverly will soon be ready to surprise her grand-niece.
After 51 years of travel, play, and kittens, the dollhouse will be spick-and-span and ready to grow the imaginations of another generation of Beverly’s relatives.
“And it will last for a few more generations,” she said.