Heritage Playthings sells realistic landscapes

Hollye Merton, operations manager for Heritage Playthings, sits among the inaugural line of toys created by the Gainesville company. The Medieval-era buildings are suitable for gamers or for people who simply enjoy collecting themed toys.

DOUG FINGER/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Thursday, January 27, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 26, 2005 at 11:01 p.m.
Karen Winslow, a historian with a love for the toys of yesteryear, was dismayed to see cheap plastic or resin renditions of classic buildings being used as toys, displays and by gamers. So in the summer of 2000, she began her own line.
Using modern production techniques, including computer-generated plans and laser-cut technology, she and her friend and business partner, Hollye Merton, developed toys out of wood that were then hand-painted to resemble buildings and landscapes. Her first line of Heritage Playthings was of castles, churches, cottages, a bridge, trees and stones. They are scaled to be used with 27- to 54-centimeter knight and soldier figures commonly used by war-gamers re-creating battles of the Middle Ages.
The business was well under way when Winslow was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. That prompted her move from from Silver Spring, Md., to the warmer climate in Gainesville with Merton, who grew up in Lake City and had relatives in the area.
Winslow died in March 2004 at 63, but Merton was determined to continue the production and launched a Web site offering the toys online, www.heritageplaythings.com, in December. Merton said she hopes to be able to eventually market them locally as well. She also plans to distribute brochures at this weekend's Hoggetowne Medieval Faire.
Each birchwood piece is computer-designed then laser cut by an outside contractor. Merton has acquired a lathe and a router which she plans to use eventually to cut the pieces herself. The sections are notched together and then hand-painted with Gesso to create texture and color.
The buildings aren't full-scale historical reproductions, they are for collections and displays, Merton explains. However, they are realistic enough for those who collect and play with these sorts of items, she said.
Prices for individual selections range from $20 to $119. For do-it-yourselfers, the items also can be purchased as kits for slightly lower prices, and buyers may choose spring or fall colors on the trees.

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