One of my earliest childhood memories is peering into a hole of a mouse house in the large baseboard of the library.
I was probably in Kindergarten, and our class was visiting the downtown Nashville Library. I remember nothing else except the grand scale of the baseboard, and the tiny magical mouse house in the wall.
I just knew a real mouse lived in there and had a little room with tiny objects repurposed as furniture. I thought what a great life that mouse must have to live in this library.
That memory came rushing back to me last week when I took my youngest, Ellenor, to visit the downtown Nashville Library.
This library was built in 2001, and one of the features they brought to the new building was Buttercup the Mouse House. However, they also built Buttercup a second home (pictured below).
The children’s floor got a revamp two years ago and both houses were preserved. There is a prominent “mail” slot at the main desk, where children can write to the mouse, and she’ll write back.
I emailed the director of children’s department when I got home because I couldn’t find any back story on the mouse house online, and she (like a champ!) sent me a scan of an old Tennessean article, written by the late Gail Kerr.
Buttercup & the Mouse House were creations of Tom Tichenor, a local legend known for his marionette creations and shows featured by the Nashville Puppet Library. Tichenor was only 15 when he staged his first puppet show at the library in 1938 and he continued to over the span of 50 years.
The article doesn’t mention when the mouse house was first installed, and the rock-star children’s dept director said she would continue to investigate, but the article does mention the house being older than 50 years and moving into the Ben West Library in 1963.
I love the magic and imagination that surrounds this sweet little house that has delighted generations of children – my own included.
And I’m thankful for the gem of a gift that our Nashville Public Library is.