Mysterious miniature house: Hidden remains of a popular Christmas Village from the 1960s
Posted November 25, 2020 11:47 a.m. EST
Updated November 26, 2020 8:22 a.m. EST
Tucked away on a quiet neighborhood road is a little piece of Raleigh Christmas history dating back to the 1960s.
If you lived in Raleigh in those years, you might recognize the mysterious miniature Christmas village house sitting along New Bern Avenue as a treasured part of your childhood Christmas memories.
If you were born after the 1960s; however, the little village house may never have even caught your eye.
Many locals have wondered about the small house – either about where it came from or about what happened to it.
The little house is one of the few remaining pieces of the Cross Family Christmas display, which included a little village and miniature church, large enough for kids to play inside. Decades ago, the Cross Family display was one of the most popular holiday lights displays in Raleigh.
"The Crosses always had the best Christmas decorations in Raleigh, and people came from miles around to see them," said Bobby Moore, who remembered seeing the lights when he was younger.
"During their early years of decorating, we could walk through the display. But eventually the crowds and traffic got out of hand, and we were no longer allowed to go into their yard," he said.
Vintage pieces of the treasured Cross family display are scattered about Raleigh, but a handful of those tangible holiday memories still remain.
The Cross Family carolers: Restoring vintage statues
Despite the joy and wonder the Cross display brought to thousands of local families, their piece of Christmas history was almost lost forever.
The first lines of Myrtle Cross' obituary immediately reference her family's service to the community, providing whimsical holiday memories for the people of Raleigh.
When Myrtle and Charles Cross passed away, their treasures were packed away and sold at an estate sale. In the rough process of packing, several vintage carolers and statues from the manger scene were cracked, broken – or even completely turned to dust.
Bobby and Jan Moore, who manage one of Raleigh's more recent major holiday displays, Happyland Christmas Lights, discovered the broken pieces and purchased them all.
"You have no idea how excited I was when I saw those old decorations. I was like a kid all over again," he wrote in an autobiographical article on Candid Slice.
Sadly, Moore said many of the pieces were "crushed flat."
He and his wife worked to restore the treasured pieces of Raleigh Christmas history. Many photos of their restoration process are on Happyland's Facebook page.
They built forms and frames for some of the damaged statues, then filled them with foam. They used marine plaster to make them waterproof. They carefully repainting each one by hand with acrylic craft paint.
Christmas history from the 1960s part of Raleigh's new big light display
The historic statues became part of the ever-growing Happyland display, which went on to win a national television competition – the Great Christmas Light Fight.
Just like the Cross Family display on New Bern Avenue, Happyland became known for drawing lines of cars, allowing those historic decorations to stop traffic just like they had decades ago.
Generations of locals come by to see the new lights – but also to see the old decorations and share a dose of nostalgia with their children and grandchildren.
One 92-year-old woman saw the Cross statues displayed for the first time in decades. She broke down in tears as she shared the sight with her granddaughter.
"Hundreds of people drive past every year, many who remember visiting the Cross family’s Christmas display in their childhood. It means a lot to have preserved this huge part of Raleigh history," said Moore.
A glimpse into how the Cross Family display once looked
One viewer sent a video of an old newscast from another channel that shows the Cross Family display in its full glory. Look at the miniature church and house, decades ago, before they'd become part of Christmas past.
A live look at how the miniature village house looks today
WRAL's Hidden Historian visited the street where the decades-old miniature village house -- the final remaining piece of this Raleigh Christmas legend -- still stands on the original location.