Lova Cline was born in 1902 with a serious neurological disease that confined her to bed. She could not move herself at all. Her father, a carpenter, built her a large dollhouse. Lova’s only enjoyment in life came when she was propped up in bed and gazed at her precious doll house. She died in 1908, and is now buried with her mother and father in Arlington East Cemetery in Rush County, Indiana.
The following narrative is posted on the graves of the Cline family, next to Lova’s dollhouse. We were able to type out a copy from the posted pages. It is worth reading the entire story as it demonstrates true love and commitment.
This is the history of the dollhouse as we know it up to the year 2015
as told by Sheila Hewitt
Lova Cline was born in 1902. The only child of George and Mary Cline, she
was an invalid from birth, unable to even sit on her own. The only joy in her
life was a dollhouse built for her by her father who was a carpenter.
George Cline was not just a carpenter, but as he insisted, a bridge carpenter.
He built the dollhouse that was a labor of love and heartache. Although the
house is roomy and exquisitely fashioned it has no entrance, only large
windows. Little Lova was able to only look at it from her chair or bed, but it
was the only thing that brought luster to her eyes. He must have known Lova
would not live to enjoy the house long, yet he worked many days and nights
on its construction.
The dollhouse is 5 feet long and weighs 400 pounds. The roof is gabled and
the weatherboards are popular with a lot of scroll work, which is now
covered. All the original furniture in the house was built by her dad, which
consisted of three chairs, a love-seat all with cushions, a vase of flowers set
on an end table adorned with a lace doily, a crib with a small doll, and some
toys laid around the room. The dining room consisted of a table covered with
a lace table cloth, a vase of flowers in the center, and two chairs with a doll in
one. All of the dolls in the house were Lova’s, put there by her mother along
with dishes and lace curtains for the windows.
Lova died in 1908 at the age of six, and her dollhouse was placed at the site
of her grave in the west end of the cemetery. It remained there until 1945
when her mother, Mary Cline, passed away. After the death of his wife,
George Cline suggested the dollhouse be destroyed.
By the time George suggested that the dollhouse be destroyed it was already
an Arlington Legend. Blount Sharp, the Sexton of the cemetery, talked Mr.
Cline out of demolishing the dollhouse. The caretaker moved the dollhouse
and Lova’s remains to their present location, next to Lova’s mother. Blount
Sharp put the dollhouse on a new foundation and painted the outside. His
wife replaced the rug and lace curtains which time and mice had ruined.
George Cline died in 1946, one year after his wife, and was buried beside her
and little Lova. His will designated Lova Ward-Wooten to serve as caretaker
of the dollhouse. Lova Ward-Wooten had been named after Cline’s daughter.
Lova’s parents were close friends of the Clines and related by marriage. The
Clines would often bring Lova Ward-Wooten gifts when she was small.
The years went by and the dollhouse stood much as it always had except for
the once a year cleaning that Lova would do. Grown-ups and children alike
would go over and peak in to see what was inside. Then in 1973, an article
about the dollhouse and its antique furnishings appeared in the Trader
Magazine. Then shortly after that, thieves broke into the dollhouse and stole
all of the original furniture and dolls, which are still missing.
The dollhouse did not stand ravished for long. The Posey Township 4-H
Club replaced the curtains and rug. Nick and Ivanna Pike of Arlington
offered their assistance in restoring the house to its former condition. Mrs.
Pike made three new China dolls to take the place of those stolen. The
original dolls and furniture could not be duplicated because no photographs
of them were ever taken. The new dolls were authentic reproductions of
antiques. Not long after the dolls were placed in the house, one was stolen.
The two that were left were a tiny doll in a baby bed and another doll, which
appeared to be a sister or mother, watching over the baby. Nike Pike welded
together a doll buggy from coat hangers and scrap metal, copying a picture
out of an old catalog. Percy Turner, who died in 1975, built new furniture for
the dollhouse. Chairs set around a little table set with dishes and silverware
as if ready for dinner that never came. A small oil lamp kept an eternal vigil
in the bay windows.
In the year 1979, another article was written with a picture of the dollhouse
and not long after that vandals struck again. Carl Hutchinson, who was
caretaker of the cemetery at the time, and Lova decided the outside of the
dollhouse needed to be restored. He removed the house and took it to
Tweedy Lumber Company in Carthage. They reworked all the windows,
covered the roof with metal, the sides with aluminum, and caulked the
cracks. The dollhouse looked brand new. Carl also had a large foundation
built and had the dollhouse bolted down when it was finished. These steps
were taken to help against vandalism.
Lova asked me, her daughter Sheila Wooten-Hewitt, if I would help replace
the furniture. Some friends and I decided to make the furniture out of
cardboard making the furniture of no value. We covered the furniture with
upholstery materials. The dining room chairs were covered in beige and the
table made of cardboard had a lace table cloth. The chairs and sofa were all
covered with materials and had cushions placed in them. End tables were
covered and then a hole punched in them for pencils to be placed to be used
as lamps and Downy lids for shades. A bed was made out of sponge and then
covered with material and little hand made pillows. A lot of time and effort
was taken to make these pieces just so there would be something in the
dollhouse. I made lace curtains, Kathy Schuck donated a piece of carpet to
replace the one stolen, and Joan Williams donated little flower vases to sit on
the windowsills. Everything was then gathered up by Lova, me and my
husband, Dean, and the furniture and curtains were placed in the dollhouse.
At this time there were no dolls but Susie Hewitt, my daughter, had a little
china doll and she wanted to put it in the house. That doll is still there today.
This furniture was left alone, to no one’s surprise.
On memorial day in 1999, I, Dean and my sister, Aleta, refurnished the
dollhouse with purchased miniature doll furniture and new lace curtains that
were once again made by me. This furniture was really too small and did not
simulate the time period that the dollhouse was built.
Lova’s dollhouse was also cause for a song that was written in 2001 titled
“Lova’s Doll House with God’s Love.” A gentleman in Greenfield, Indiana,
wrote it. Our little house is filled with God’s love, for over the years it has
caused joy for so many. To be working on the little house and have people
ask me the story or to see little one’s faces light up when they see the
dollhouse gives me so much joy.
In June of 1999, Lova Ward-Wooten passed away. She asked me to become
the caretaker of the dollhouse. People from everywhere stop to see the little
monument that made Lova’s short life a little happier. Many people over the
years have told the story of the dollhouse in our cemetery. It is more than
just a story of a father’s love for his only daughter. It is also the story of a
community’s affections for a little girl they never knew and how these
feelings have rescued a sentimental memorial. In April of 2002, I once again
made furniture, but this time out of Popsicle sticks which I covered with
material and is more to the size of the original furniture. That is the furniture
that is in the dollhouse today. In June of 2014, Tim Hill asked if I would care
if he put a new metal roof on the dollhouse. I said I did not mind and he
surprised me and did the work on a Friday and Saturday. Troy Warrick had
the materials and Troy, Bill Fox, Robert Schauck and Tim Hill worked and
put on the new roof. After Troy left, Bill, Robert and Tim painted the
dollhouse. I went to thank the boys and asked why they did all of this and
they said the dollhouse is a part of the community and they wanted to
contribute from the community. The love that George felt for his daughter
will live on through the dollhouse and all that visit the dollhouse can feel that
I found a doll dressed in clothes of the era the dollhouse was originally built
and in May of 2015 the doll was place inside the dollhouse. I will keep up on
the dollhouse as long as I am able and my granddaughters, Jessica and Logan
Hewitt will, I hope, someday take over caring for the house as I have. Enjoy
our little house and remember it is with God’s love we have it to remember.
By Sheila Hewitt
What a remarkable tribute. May Lova and her mom and dad rest in peace.