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Architectural Toy Collection

Gift of George Wetzel

Donated in 2006

Architectural toys open the worlds of design and engineering to children and adults. They not only help shape and form some of our earliest impressions of the built environment, but they can inspire lifelong learning. Through their mechanics and materials, their packaging and instructions, these toys speak volumes about how past, and present, building traditions are promoted through play. Whether made from wood, composite stone, metal, ceramic, rubber, or plastic, architectural toys create a bridge between the physical world and imagined ones.

Assembled over the past 30 years by Chicagolander George Wetzel, this unparalleled collection holds more than 2,300 toys dating from the 1860s to the 1990s. Highlights include building sets that trace the history of such childhood favorites as Lincoln Logs, Erector Sets, Tinker Toys, and LEGO® bricks; rarer and less familiar toys from around the globe; and examples featuring specific buildings or building types, such as skyscrapers and suburban homes.  

Acquired by the Museum in 2006, the Architectural Toy Collection is one of the largest and most sophisticated of its kind held in public trust within the United States.

Read more about Wetzel's collection.


The Architectural Toy Collection is supported by the Bender Foundation; The Morris and Gwendolyn Caftitz Foundation; Lieutenant Colonel and Mrs. William K. Konze; and the Sunrise Foundation.

See more highlights from the Architectural Toy Collection in PLAY WORK BUILD.