Notes from Puzzle Palace

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Building a Museum

 So by now, I'm sure that most of you who attended the VMPP last weekend will know that George and I will be the new guardians of the Hordern-Dalgety puzzle collection.  Accomplishing this is no small feat.  On James' side, he began looking for a new home for his museum many years ago.  In 2016 he put a call for takers into CFF, and his website has had the same call on it for as long as I can remember.  George and I were dreaming one day as I looked up something on James' site and went and bought a house to hold it.  No, that's a bit of an exaggeration, we began emailing James to say if he had no takers to add us to the bottom of his list as we knew his desire to keep the collection in Europe.  

We spent quite a few long what'sapp calls with James and many many more long emails of back and forth on the logistics of all of this.  Poor James has had the hardest job of all so far.  He has to find the movers and get the puzzles packed and ready to ship to us.  We greatly appreciate his trust in us.  We know how very hard it must be for him to have his collection leave his home after so many years of collecting. 

On our end, in the off chance we were able to obtain the collection, I started looking at commercial properties but they were simply too far away.  We then started looking at the non-gated communities around us but all the homes in our price range were too small.  As much as we hated to do it for many reasons, we finally looked within our own club. We found the perfect house to turn into a museum and promptly bought it.  This is before we became guardians of the collection.  If it didn't pan out, we have a weekend home, or more selfishly, a place to keep the kid closer to her mom for a few more years-yet far enough a way to still be able to have a private life. This house is a short 8 minute walk from Puzzle Palace and has been appropriately named the Puzzle Palace Museum.  It is 3,427 square feet, has 4 bedrooms and 4 1/2 baths.  Like Puzzle Palace, this house is being kitted out to hold the incoming collection.  We will have around 40,000 puzzles coming in as well as around 3000 puzzle related books.  

We've kitted out every room with 15x15x15 shelf cubies.  Each main box is 2 of the cubies high by 4 long. They are stacked on most walls 3 boxes high.  Depending on how many puzzles we have in this collection, each of the small cubies will hold six pva clear lidded drawers.   Each drawer can hold up to 8 Rubik's cube sized puzzle.  The beauty of this is that you can see each puzzle, and still be able to play with them while we are maximizing the space. In the great room, there are a total of 98 of these units.  This is an area that will hold just over 37,000 puzzles.  We have an extra 14x14 bedroom on the main floor that will have a total of 304 linear feet of shelf space.  This area will hold an additional 1200 puzzles.  On top of this there will be a number of map cases in these rooms that will hold another 3000 puzzles.  We have also installed wire puzzle hooks in the outdoor powder room that will hold approximately 500 puzzles.  The cabana bath also has another set of shelves that will hold around 200 puzzles.  The laundry room-cum-bar will have additional puzzle hooks to hold another 200~300 puzzles. For those that are better at math than me, this lower level of the house should be able to hold at least 42,000 puzzles.  

I have been posting photos and videos of the great wall on FaceBook and have gotten a lot of comments about it not being sturdy or collapsing under the weight of the puzzles on it.  This wall is 10 wide x 26 feet high at the apex.  What you don't realize is that it is a solid concrete wall.  The cubbies are mounted directly to the wall with concrete anchors in four places per unit.  Each unit is connected to those surrounding it.  The center of each cabinet is further supported by more planks and those are also mounted to the wall and to the cabinets around them.  This thing is going no where.  I feel for anyone who purchases this house after we are gone.  Those things are there to stay.  This particular wall was not designed for the main purpose of storage.  It is here for visual impact.  When you enter the Puzzle Palace Museum, you will be amazed by this. It will be a wonder to behold. For those of you who have visited James' house, you may not remember all of these puzzles.  Why?  He had them in a beautiful cabinet behind closed doors or on the top of his custom made cabinet.  These are not puzzles to be played with, but rather puzzles to be looked at.  

James has graciously given us his collection of puzzle books and we have decided to use one 14x14 bedroom as a library.  I don't believe there will be room for a bed in here, but I do plan to put in a table with comfortable chairs so one can read or research in comfort.

I guess any other puzzles will be placed in the midlevel and master bedrooms.  We will have a large number of puzzle 'posters' and 'artwork' on display as well.  These will be placed in the uncabineted areas of the 26' walls.  You will have to look up to see them, but there are also two wonderful viewing areas over either side of the great room that will very easily allow observation of any hung art works.

To make this museum work, we have had to do quite a lot of work on the house.  Don't get me wrong, the house is in amazingly good shape.  We got such a bargain on it.  It is very museum-like in design; the high ceilings, the angles, the amount of natural light that comes through the windows.  It's a wonderful place to house the collection.  

One of James' concerns (among many I will address here) was exposure to UV light. He's worried and rightfully so about fading of the puzzles.  The way the house is situated, there is a lot of natural light, but very little light that falls anywhere but on the floor.  The few rooms that have more exposure are covered by our jungle.  The windows also have blinds on them that can be drawn if need be, but after having spent the last 2 weeks here, we realize that it won't be necessary. The lights I chose to install are all low UV emitting LED lights.  None of the puzzles will be directly lit up as all lights are to be angled away from the walls and more towards the inside of the room. In order to ensure good visibility, I am having 99 lights either replaced, or installed.  The lights themselves are on a Lutron system that is voice activated through Siri on either the HomePods that are scattered throughout the house or the iPad that has been installed in the kitchen.

Everyone is concerned about dust, but we have taken care of this as well.  As in Puzzle Palace, we have just installed new HVAC systems.  This house has 4 units (overkill for the size of the house) all equipped with a Remy Halo air purifier. We have these in the big house and love them.  Since installing them, the dust level has dropped significantly.  The systems also have the added benefit of keeping the house humidity controlled.  We have the temperature set between 70 and 77 degrees.  Currently the humidity is at 60% but the system has only been working for 2 days.  This will be monitored and adjusted as necessary.  The house also has that fantastic in wall vacuum system.  Amazing thing that is.  I wish I'd have had those in other places I've lived in.  

We have entrances all around the house.  There are 4 sliding glass doors to the pool area, the front entrance of course, and a garage entrance. This house doesn't have a screened in pool, but we do have screens on all of the windows so no bugs here.  We are not worried about break-ins because of the excellent security in our community.  We will be installing motion detectors outside the house and some security cameras inside but this is more for us to maintain an eye on the collection from our own home. This is of course a smart home and I can control it from anywhere thanks to modern technology and telephones but a little bit of added security won't hurt.  

We have contacted Tesla and will be having solar installed here as well.  Additionally there will be 4 power walls to store energy in the event of a power outage.  We are not in a flood zone, the house is equipped with full hurricane shutters, although direct hits from hurricanes in this area are rare.  We aren't in a hurricane evacuation area.  The last major hurricane to hit this area was Irma and it didn't do much damage at all.  While we do get hurricanes, we are far enough away from the water that we are not in the high wind areas.  

The kitchen has been filled with all one needs to live in a house.  There are silverware, dishes, pots and pans, ovenware, a coffee maker or two.  There is food in the cupboards and wine in the bar.  Guests that stay here will have a choice of 3 bedrooms or the great room.  We are not installing traditional beds, but rather will have a Castro Convertible in each of the rooms.  There are additional air mattresses for when we have larger parties.  And if there is so much demand for space after both the museum and the Puzzle Palace are filled, there is a hotel a short 10 minute walk down the road.  

And although we don't watch it, we do have a television installed in the master bedroom.  With the way the room is set up, we can also use it to host presentations.  Folding chairs are easy to store.  The cable is hooked up and the internet is up and running.

Should the puzzle collection grow beyond its current size (and we all know it will), we also have a 2 car air conditioned garage that we can convert into a puzzle room.  This area even has its own powder room. Currently it is only being used to store a 4 person golf cart that we purchased so guests who don't want to walk can travel between the two houses. 

A landscaper has been contracted, new sidewalks are going in, the pool and spa are being redone, outdoor furniture is being brought in, the putting green is on order.  This house will soon be ready for visitors once the puzzles have arrived.  

We really have no words to express how thrilled, grateful, humbled we are that James has chosen to entrust us with his wonderful collection.  He and Lindsey have a vacation home for life.  We really feel honored that he has done this and hope we display the collection in a way that does it justice.

I'll post photos and make more updates as the museum is updated. 

As always, Puzzle Palace is open to fellow puzzlers by invitation only. 


  1. Absolutely stunning news Roxanne/George and I am sure that James will be delighted that someone who has a profound interest in puzzles will be a custodian of such a major collection into the future. Wow I am stunned at the news but look forward at some time into the future to look upon and admire the majesty of such a collection. When all of this mess is out of the way ( the virus that is) it will make a destination to visited in a pilgrimage sort of way. Congratulations again

  2. Wow, seems a good place to show all the puzzles from the collection. It´s only sad it´s not longer in Europe, but I think there will be a lot better presentation as before. James house became to small for all the stuff. Congratulation!
    And of course I want to see it if it´s ready...