Satisfy the Child Within at Nearby Toy Soldier Museum
By Marilyn Wolk, Pennsylvania Magazine
Hidden away on eight acres in the midst of a pine forest in the Poconos is a magical place that will appeal to the child in all of us.
From the moment we pull onto the grounds of the Toy Soldier Museum in Cresco, Monroe County, we know we are in for an extraordinary experience. Toy soldiers lurk inside tanks, two to three feet high, and dime-store soldiers pose on rocks beside the entryway. But not even this unusual welcoming committee could have prepared us for our encounter with the more than 35,000 figures on display inside the museum.
Throughout our tour of the two-story building, we see dioramas featuring miniature figures caught in action in battle scenes, such as Vicksburg, Yorktown and San Juan Hill, parade scenes of Scottish bagpipers, a polo match in India, a coronation ceremony at Buckingham Palace, the Tuilleries Gardens of 1809 and the streets of New York in 1902. The displays, some of which are more than 20 feet long, are all hand built to be as historically accurate as possible, by James Hillestad, a renowned historian with a particular emphasis on the Victorian and Edwardian eras.
One of Hillestad’s newest displays at the museum shows an Egyptian mummification process, complete with the marketplace at Thebes, a sphinx, and an Egyptian temple. The displays are constantly changing according to the whims of the owner, and there is always a work in progress. During our visit, we observed Hillestad creating the streets of London at Christmastime.
Hillestad began his collection of miniatures when he was a young child growing up without the distractions of television and computer games. After take a hiatus from the miniatures to attend college and participate in corporate life, he resumed his hobby in 1984. Today, he has one of the largest collections in the United States.
His combined interest in history (British history in particular), design and collecting have all contributed to the spectacular displays in his museum.
The museum, which also features artifacts of British military history including more than 70 full-size mannequins dressed in full British Regimental uniforms, is open daily, but call ahead to confirm hours. Please note that the museum is not appropriate for children under the age of 12; however, a number of Hillestad’s small dioramas are on display nearby at the Cresco Railroad Station, the Theo B. Price Country Store, the Crescent Lodge, and Skytop Lodge.
For more information about the Toy Soldier Museum, including directions and hours, call 570-629-7227 or go online at www.the-toy-soldier.com
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