Today we live in a world of vaccinations, antibiotics, and fairly easy access to hospitals. But, in most areas of the world before World War II, medical care was much less advanced. Without childhood vaccines and life-saving medicines, diseases we now think of as eradicated were deadly (although in some locales these illnesses are still widespread today). Many children still die from tuberculosis, measles, and diphtheria and it’s the latter of these diseases that took the life of a 4-year-old girl in 1933. Her parents, grief-stricken, built her a very unusual mausoleum that today draws visitors from around the country.
Over the course of just a few weeks, Rosalind Nadine Earles became sicker and sicker, eventually dying from diphtheria just a week before Christmas. What she had asked her parents to get her for Christmas was a dollhouse, which she never got to play with.
Following her burial her father built for her a brick playhouse at her gravesite. Her parents filled the playhouse with things a little girl would have in her room: a baby carriage, tricycle, and lots of dolls and teddy bears. Inside there are some more modern dolls that have been added to the mausoleum in later years.
The small house is made in several different colors of bricks, with a front porch, chimney, and even little striped awnings. Her parents, Julian (died 1979) and Alma (died 1981), are buried on the site next to her and the whole plot is hemmed in with a low, brick fence that matches the brick of the small house.
Today this trio of graves brings a lot of people to the Oakwood Cemetery in Lanett, Alabama, but this was true in the 1930s as well. You can see in older photos that the awnings were a later addition.
Today the city of Lanett takes care of Nadine’s grave as her family has passed on as well. It is known as the dollhouse grave and while it’s very unusual it’s not the only one of its kind. There are several dollhouse graves, many of which predate Nadine’s grave, built across the US for little girls who didn’t survive childhood illnesses.