The Gateway Club is new this year. They will decorate the smallest room, the Morning Room.

Jane Byers, usually known for her artwork, is taking part with the club she helped organize 45 years ago. She's bringing from her own collection two American Indian dolls, a Pilgrim doll and two rag dolls dressed in Colonial garb.

She found a Shirley Temple doll that reminded her of one she had as a child at a Historical Society sale several years ago. "I'm just returning it for display," she quipped.

Lynda Bell plans to bring several of her early 20th century dolls, as well as porcelain dolls she has made herself since the 1990s.


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Using her own kiln, she produces the heads of her elegant, curly-headed, elaborately dressed dolls.

"It takes, depending on the doll, three or four firings to make a doll," she said on the process.

After the mold is made, it is fired, cleaned, painted at least once and fired in the kiln after each step.

After the dolls are made, Bell gets out needle and thread to dress them. "Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of the clothes that are on them I've made," she said.

Doll collectors may recognize her dolls' faces resemble those of famous European doll makers, Jumeau and Kesner.

"I've always liked dolls," Bell said, recalling how she asked her mother to be sure she — not Santa — chose her dolls. She lost all of them, she reported sadly, in a house fire when she and her husband lived in Albuquerque, N.M.

Once a small Friday night event, the Catonsville Historical Society's open house now stretches over two afternoons and draws about 350 people, according to Sharon Stanton, the organization's president. "We are trying to have the society open to the community," she said. "There's so much going on here."

Although the society tries to bring something new to each year's open house, some things remain the same. That includes the trays of cookies made in residents' kitchens, including Margaret Milleker's.

"I spend a lot of time baking my cookies," she said. "I've already started baking."

Before Christmas, she usually bakes about 20 kinds, everything from toll house to sugar cookies.

Although admission is free, visitors are asked to bring canned goods to help restock the shelves of the Catonsville Emergency Food Ministry.