The famous American author and poet Henry David Thoreau once said, “I have learned that even the smallest house can be a home.”
For one local man, this quote could not be more true.
Harry Breitenstein’s home off Gall Road contains more than 50 miniature houses, all made of porcelain.
The rural Waterloo man collects the porcelain houses and has been doing so for a number of years.
As a result, he’s filled a whole room in his basement with a display of them, and can turn them all on with just a few quick switches.
“My wife Roberta and I started collecting them on our travels,” Breitenstein said.
The little houses have come from Florida, Missouri, Illinois, Maine and Washington, and are now tiered and set up in the Breitensteins’ basement.
He said it’s a little tricky to keep track of the ones they have and don’t have, and he’s ended up with a few duplicates over the 20 years he’s been collecting.
“We give those to friends and family,” Harry said.
From time to time, he’ll sit and look into each one with the lights on, admiring the detail in each little home.
For example, a miniature diner as part of the Breitenstein collection is so intricate that the menus are readable through the windows.
“My favorites are the greenhouse ones,” he said. “I like that you can see into them.”
Harry said what drew him to the houses was an appreciation of the detail and intricacy put into them.
“I just took a liking to them and it escalated from there,” he said. “I have 52 set up and another 20 waiting in the wings if I can figure out how to build a table for them.”
It’s a hobby the rest of his family has gotten into as well, with his wife helping him with the setup.
“My daughter bought us a couple,” he said. “And I have an apple orchard one because I worked part-time over at Eckert’s.”
The display is set up according to themes, with farmhouses in one section and seaside houses at the other end.
Harry said he knows of a few other people who collect miniature houses, but none with the amount he has.
He finds the houses at places such as Ace Hardware, Fort Myers’ Shell Factory in Florida and various specialty craft shops.
Maintaining the houses is an ongoing effort — especially since some are battery-operated or need to have tiny light bulbs changed.
“I like working with the little lights,” he said. “And I like that they’re all detailed after real houses.”
Harry’s collection is unique and that’s the way he likes it.
“Some people collect trains or tractors,” Harry said. “But I’ve only ever seen one porcelain house display bigger than this one.”