In the little Adams County town of Magley – unincorporated and so small, Lila Rauner says, that its often not on maps – there stands an even smaller village.
It has a café, a boutique, a chapel, an open-air antiques mart, a barn and, soon enough, a military recruiting station, plus a cabin and a florist shop and even an old-fashioned, 28-foot-high farm windmill.
The place resembles nothing so much as one of those miniature villages folks dust off around this time of year as they begin to set out their holiday decorations.
But this village is full-size, crafted from outbuildings Rauner and her husband, Mike, have salvaged or constructed to dress up what was a barren backyard.
And, she adds, there may have been one other goal, too: to have somewhere other than her house to put her copious and eclectic collection of antiques, which now furnish the structures in whimsical vignettes.
The semiretired hairdresser says the village was started in 1996 when her mother, Beulah Yoder Kruetzman of rural Decatur, died.
Rauner, 71, wanted something to remember her mom by, so she spent some inheritance money on – of all things – an Amish-built log cabin.
A niece suggested she put her mothers old nylon-frise-upholstered couch inside.
Its like iron – it never wears out, Rauner says. Soon enough, she was finding other things from her mothers era to go with it.
The cabin now houses a carved oak side chair with a caned seat, an antique wood stove, a set of brown Hull pottery, a collection of old spice tins and china creamers in the shapes of animals.
I dont buy them anymore, she confesses of the cows and dogs and pigs and ducks with mouth-shaped spouts. The shelf got full.
Later, in 2011, came Bens Barn, a dilapidated shed that the late Ben Miller of Friedheim, a longtime American Legion friend of Mikes, was going to tear down, plus an outhouse also destined for scrap.
Mike, 73, made a deal to clean out the shed if he got the building, Lila says. He added a door and recycled windows and shutters.
The painted red barn is now filled with old tools, as is the outhouse. It got an addition on the east wall, windows and picket fences and roof trim, and the couple now joke that its the double-wide.
Soon enough, she says, the two realized they were engaged in much more than just a hobby. Farm sheds and outbuildings throughout the area were disappearing.
They were either going to be burned, or they were going to the dumpster and into the trash, Mike says, noting that the couple got the bulk of their buildings within five miles of their home on U.S. 224.
Barns around here are the same way. People bulldoze them. Theyre too small, and (farmers) dont bale hay and put it in the haymow anymore, so theyre tearing them down.
Our motto, adds his wife, is Rescue, reuse, recycle.
As self-described local versions of the antiques hunters on the History channels American Pickers, the Rauners have gone into high gear in the past year or so.
Buchers Boutique was created from a shed that a friend of theirs from south of Preble was about to junk. The shed got windows and, Lila Rauner says, a dropped ceiling made of old screen doors – literally hung from inside the roof.
Rauner says shell never let it be said that she doesnt have a sense of humor.
Her quirkiness also is on display in The Maids Parlor – Rauner says she thought the village had gotten so large that it needed someone to take care of it. So she created Millie the Maid, a scarecrow lady wearing one of her old jumpers and white gloves, with curls made from kitchen scrubbies and carrying a new-fangled electrostatic mini-duster.
Millie stands outside her parlor, which features an array of feminine items ranging from perfume bottles to doilies to little silk panties. Theyre hanging on a clothesline with price tags still on them from the former Niblick department store in Decatur.
Millie has her own (outdoor) toilet – a chamber pot set into an old chair and usually holding a flower in the summertime – with a privacy fence and a laundry area with an old Maytag wringer washer from an estate sale, Rauner says.
My mother had a washer just like it years ago.
The Rauners transformed a shed into a chapel by topping it with a cross that was a finial from Salem United Church of Christ in Magley, which dates to 1892.
They bought three such finials at a church auction when its roof was repaired several years ago, not knowing then what purpose they would serve.
A more recent acquisition is an old chicken coop from a farm northwest of Craigville. Rauner says she decided the village needed a restaurant, so Mike turned the building into the quaint red Two Speckled Hens Café.
Lila Rauner painted the floor to look like a chicken-patterned rug on black-and-white tile, then filled the café with kitchen items, tables set for customers and yellow café curtains with a little red hen print.
Theres even a chalkboard for the daily specials. This is my favorite of all of them, she says.
The next outbuilding to join the village, which also includes an antiques mart and a florists shed, is a recent acquisition from north of Preble.
Its not as old as the other buildings, but Rauner says it has potential because it has an overhang that can easily become a porch.
Her idea is to honor her husbands service in the Marines – as well as his willing support for what she calls her obsession – by turning the structure into an old-time military recruiting station.
Shes got ideas for the furnishings – a standard office desk and chair, an old phone, military posters, newspapers from Japan from Mikes career abroad and, of course, a stove with a coffeepot for free coffee to lure potential recruits, she says.
The Rauners, who celebrated their 50th anniversary in May, say theyve opened the village occasionally for area school and church groups and clubs. But they have no plans to open it to the public as a tourist attraction.
Lila Rauner says shell sometimes sit a spell in some of the buildings, although they dont have heat or electricity, just for fun.
But mostly she likes the chance to expand and decorate what she calls my little pretend kingdom.
Its been really fun restoring these sheds, she says. I think people are born with talents, and I can visualize things. And I like to make them real.