Antique dolls restored to life in former mortuary
After 10 years in a narrow space on Colorado Avenue, Marilyn Baylen has relocated her Doll Doctor business to roomier confines in the free-standing, two-story
historic brick building at 8 S. 25th St.
The move marks another step up for the unique one-woman business, which Baylen originally started from her home.
What does a doll doctor do? She restores antique dolls, using experience, skills and research to make them look as close to their original appearance as possible. I'm the only one around this area, Baylen said in a recent interview. I get jobs from all over the world.
Sometimes individuals bring by old dolls they've had; other times she gets calls from auction houses and museums.
There's really no textbook on how to do her work. Baylen learned the rudiments of it as a child, helping her father work with ceramic and porcelain in his studio. She became accustomed to detail-oriented tasks during her previous career as a lab technician.
For doll repair, a lot of people think it's just putting on pretty clothes and bows, she observed. But you have to know how they're made to reconstruct them.
Doll bodies a century or more ago were made of porcelain, bisque, china or compositions of material, typically wallpaper, paste and sawdust. Baylen mixes her own compositions for repairs and sews the clothes. I make everything, she said.
Her former location on the avenue was hard to give up, but Baylen liked the idea of owning a classic older building, and this one - 2,900 square feet in all - has the added advantage of an income apartment in back and optional space upstairs.
The County Assessor's Office dates the building at 1900. It doesn't have a name, but according to directory information at the Old Colorado City History Center, it was the home of Blunt Mortuary from the early '20s until the mid '30s.
One story from the mortuary era that Baylen has heard regards the time a coffin slid down the stairs, out the front door and onto the sidewalk.
The front door has since been moved so that it no longer lines up with the stairs. This change was implemented by the preceding building owner, an artist named Helen Pelton, who used it for a home and studio. Baylen credited Pelton for other building improvements over roughly a quarter-century, including putting in street-facing windows with beveled glass and chipping off the stucco that had been slapped over the building's original brick exterior.
Before moving in, Baylen and her husband, Ariel, did additional renovations to the building front, installed a new floor and retarred the roof.
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