Gifted to five-year-old Lucy Jane Haskell, daughter of Doctor William and Florence Haskell, on July 29, 1885, the Haskell Playhouse is a gorgeous architectural gem of the Victorian era. Commissioned by Lucy's maternal grandfather and philanthropist John E. Hayner and built by prominent architect Lucas Pfeiffenberger, the Haskell Playhouse was created in the elaborate Queen Anne Stick style in Alton's historic Middletown District.
It is estimated only a few dozen stick-built Victorian playhouses still exist in the United States- Lucy Haskell's playhouse is a perfect example of the idyllic and affluent architecture of the era.
The tiny house consists of a single 14' x 16' room with built-in cabinets that hold antique dolls and toys. The playhouse has both a front and rear porch, stained glass windows, a steep-pitched slate roof with ornamental ironwork, wooden gingerbread (carpenter's lace) cutouts around the windows and porches, and intricate cartwheels, brackets, spires, diagonal sticking, and fish-scale shingles.
Unfortunately, poor Lucy died only four years after the playhouse was built- at age nine of black diphtheria- on March 27, 1890. Lucy is buried in the Alton City Cemetery. Lucy's mother, Florence, died in 1932 and left the family home, playhouse, and 6.4 acres to the City of Alton, stipulating in her will that the city could claim it only if the property was never subdivided and that it always be called Haskell Park.
Today, Haskell Park and the Haskell Playhouse are used by the Alton Muny Band which plays during the summer months offering free concerts. Band performances are held every Sunday evening at 7 PM from early June to early August. The Haskell Playhouse can also be rented for small events and holds open houses.
Take a walk in the age of Lucy Haskell and enjoy her beautiful playhouse on the Haskell Park grounds. Bring a blanket or lawn chair and picnic while watching free concerts in the historical Victorian setting. The park is family-friendly and includes a playground and fishing pond.
*Please note that the Playhouse grounds are what is ADA accessible. There is a kiosk located next to the playhouse with pictures showing the interior which is not ADA accessible