In 1926, Frances Dodge-heiress to the Dodge Motor Company fortune-received a very special gift for her twelfth birthday: a playhouse christened 'Hilltop Lodge'. This was no ordinary playhouse. You will learn about its planning and construction-and celebrate her birthday in this extraordinary playhouse. For Frances, Hilltop Lodge was a safe haven-a hideaway of sorts. When riding horses on her family's estate-she used her playhouse as a stopover. (Frances Dodge would later become an internationally renowned horsewoman.) Hilltop Lodge did help Frances to gain the house management skills that her mother desired her to learn-but mostly it was special to Frances because it was here that she would first meet Patrick. Even today you can visit Frances' playhouse. Some of her personal belongings (toys, books and dishes) are still there. Visitors to Meadow Brook Hall are invited to take the short stroll through the woods to visit her playhouse-but most seem so in awe of the mansion (which was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2012)-that they confine themselves to touring the Hall. It is indeed an exquisite home. But Hilltop Lodge, Frances' enchanted hideaway, was magical . . .
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Kay Taylor and her daughter Tara Taylor, both college professors, reside in the Detroit area. Once prominent as the auto capitol of the world, it was home to our country's early 20th century auto barons and the opulent mansions now left behind for the occasional tourist to visit. Mother and daughter have a special connection to the Dodge mansion --christened Meadow Brook Hall in 1929 --a 110-room, 88,000 square-foot Tudor revival home. It is meticulously maintained and operated by Oakland University who received the Dodge estate via an endowment in1967 following the death of John Dodge's widow, Matilda Dodge Wilson. As a teen, Tara's first summer job was as a docent or guide in Knole Cottage --a playhouse that was constructed on the grounds for the Dodge's daughter. Later, Tara earned both her college undergraduate and graduate degrees in English from Oakland University. In 2013, she and her husband Peter Kalinowski were married in the gardens at Meadow Brook Hall and entertained over 200 guests within the mansion and on the grounds of this magnificent estate. Her mother worked closely with the couple in planning the fairy-tale theme wedding --and Meadow Brook Hall --recognized as one of America's 'castles' --was the perfect location. Kay Taylor holds a doctorate degree in Psychology from Michigan State University, but is also a history enthusiast. Tara, who enjoys creative writing, also loves the study of the past. In researching the history of the Dodge family, they became increasingly fascinated with the life of their daughter Frances. They decided to embark on an historical fiction saga of this remarkable young girl, heiress to the Dodge fortune, who as a child struggled with a number of personal tragedies-but who would rise to become a truly accomplished, internationally renowned horsewoman.
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