The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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December 13, 2012

PHOTOS | Hobbit house hides in Pa.

CHESTER COUNTY — Worlds away from the Shire, a stone cottage tucked into the Pennsylvania countryside would make Bilbo Baggins feel as if he were back home with his Hobbit friends in Middle-earth.

Nestled in a part of Chester County dotted with picturesque barns and rolling fields surprisingly close to Philadelphia, this Hobbit house belongs to a lifelong fan of author J.R.R. Tolkien who wanted a worthy – and private – repository for the rare books and Tolkien-inspired memorabilia he has collected in 30 years of travel in the U.S. and abroad.

The 600-square foot building is a short walk from his main house, on a flat stone path and through an English-style garden.

“We wanted a single structure, a relaxing place that was diminutive in scale, for the owner to come and hang out and just be in solitude with his collection,” said architect Peter Archer, speaking on the owner’s behalf.

Archer worked with a team of craftsmen to create the fantastical abode. They used stones taken from a long-collapsed section of an 18th-century low wall running through the center of the 16-acre property. Built up against a stone retaining wall of the same vintage, the Hobbit house looks like an original feature of the property.

The 54-inch diameter Spanish cedar door – naturally with a knob right in the center, just as Tolkien described – opens with a single hand-forged iron hinge. Several craftsmen said they couldn’t hang the 150-pound door on one hinge, but a Maryland blacksmith “succeeded on the first try,” Archer said.

A Delaware cabinetmaker built the mahogany windows, including the large arched “butterfly window” with flourishes inspired by Tolkien’s drawings. The name comes from the window’s appearance when open, with the two halves pushed outward from a center hinge.

And while a country drive to see the cottage after catching the newly released Peter Jackson film “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” might be a nice outing, don’t expect to find it.

Concerned that his rural tranquility could turn into an unwanted tourist attraction, the owner has taken steps to ensure it remains under the radar. He does not want the location of the site revealed, and used a pseudonym the rare time he gave an interview, on-camera last year.

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