Looking Back at the Madame Alexander Museum

Earlier, I posted about the super cool windows and mannequins put up for a month-long celebration of Barbie’s 50 years. During that same trip in 2009 to New York City, I ventured into Harlem to the Madame Alexander Museum and Doll Hospital, located at 615 West 131st St. Before you add this amazing place to your bucket list, I regret to inform you that it no longer exists.

Previous owners of the company Kahn Lucas Lancaster closed the Harlem headquarters, doll museum and doll hospital shortly after taking ownership. Initially, the website said the museum and hospital would reopen later, but that never came to be. Now under new ownership, I can only hope they consider opening another museum to showcase the almost 100 years of history that’s behind the iconic Madame Alexander Doll brand.

Historically, the building was so much more than just a museum and doll hospital. Madame Alexander herself moved her headquarters to the building in the 1950’s and manufactured some of the most influential Madame Alexander dolls ever created in that space.

Alongside that, she brought jobs to hundreds of people, as the company “evolved into one of Harlem’s largest private employers”. When production moved overseas in the 1990’s, the headquarters remained open for designers, seamstresses and other doll artisans.

At the time of its closing, one article spoke with a woman who was saddened by the closure of the space.

“Iman Issa, a grandmother of two 9-year-olds who manages the Studebaker Cafe on the ground floor of the old doll headquarters, said she was deeply saddened by the closure.

“I know the people who worked there,” said Issa, who bought her daughters Madame Alexander dolls, “amazing people who put their hearts and souls into the dolls. The amount of work put into those doll…it’s a shame.”

I may not have lived in the area or known the people who lost their jobs with the closure, but I have to agree with her sentiments. It is such a shame this amazing museum and doll hospital were closed, especially considering the history of the company in the building, the legacy of the company on doll collecting/manufacturing and the strength of the woman who went from immigrant to female founder her very own company before she was 30.

Now, let’s talk about the museum. Besides just being a wonderful place to see beautiful dolls, it also had a party room. If I lived in the area, having a party there, surrounded by so many pretty dolls, would have definitely been on the to-do! So, without further ado, let’s take a look inside the museum!

This is the party room. Lovely, right?

And here are some of the beauties on display. I kick myself every time I look at these photos. I wish I had had a better camera to really capture the atmosphere of this breathtaking museum properly.

How pretty is this Maggie face? To have this in my collection would be amazing!

My taste hasn’t changed much, judging by what I chose to photograph. Though, to be honest, I wasn’t as much of a Madame Alexander collector back in 2009 as I am now. That’s another reason I wish the museum was still open. I know I’d get so much more out of it today.

The bridesmaid, bride and groom in the second row are gorgeous! They look to be composition dolls or transitional dolls. Transitional dolls may be my favorite kind because of the mohair wigs.

I know she’s a later doll, but I love the pirate on the left!

There were over 600 dolls lining the halls when the museum was open. I tried looking high and low for videos from the museum, but had very little luck. Here’s a video shot during a doll hospital tour, which unfortunately, I didn’t take due to time.

The Madame Alexander Museum was truly a hidden gem in Harlem. A magical place for doll collectors of any kind, this museum held so much history within its walls. I am so happy to have had the courage to trek from Manhattan to Harlem via taxi on my own in an unfamiliar city to see the museum.  Of all the things I’ve done in New York City, it’s one of my favorite adventures.

Did you get the chance to go to the Madame Alexander Museum while it was open? Do you think they should re-open the museum? Share your thoughts in the comment area!

January 17, 2019. Uncategorized. 8 comments.

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