In this White House, no job is seen as too small
By MICHELLE JONES
© St. Petersburg Times,
Samantha Guzik, 13, said she would like to shrink herself and take a walk through each of the rooms in the miniature White House.
"It really makes me want to see the real one in Washington, D.C.," she said.
Samantha and her sister, Amanda, 15, visited the Presidents' Hall of Fame in Clermont with their grandparents, Hal and Delores Gordon of Leesburg.
The two girls were taking a Florida vacation from their home in Ohio.
Created by John and Jan Zweifel of Orlando, the reproduction of the White House took more than 30 years and more than 500,000 hours to research, design and construct.
Family, friends, volunteers and skilled craftspeople from throughout the United States have joined the Zweifels in their passion for creating the model.
Using a 1-inch to 1-foot scale, each of the rooms and furnishings have been handcrafted in authentic detail. The East and West wing are included as well as the private living quarters.
"When there is a change in the Washington White House, the curator calls John and tells him about it, so the change can be made in this house," said Carol Howe, manager of the attraction, which is next to the Citrus Tower on U.S. 27 in Clermont.
Never completed, always evolving, the miniature White House is a work in progress.
Details such as a chandelier with tiny pieces of glass, clocks that tick, electric candles and fireplaces that glow have visitors in awe.
When a new president is elected, the Oval Office is rearranged, and when a carpet is replaced or a painting is moved the miniature in Clermont changes, too.
The White House in Washington belongs to the people of the United States, John Zweifel says, so if they can't have a key to the door, they can at least have a peek at what it looks like.
Inside the miniature house, books have pages that turn, and two tiny television sets actually transmit local programming. Even the wastebasket in the calligraphers' office contains discarded notes, and tiny mechanical figures are placed throughout the diorama.
The construction of the White House was begun in 1792 while George Washington was in office. Its first residents, John Adams and his wife, moved into the house in 1800. The Zweifels' model was created as part of a historical display for the 200th birthday of the construction of the White House and was displayed in the East Room in 1992.
The Presidents' Hall of Fame has four rooms. The first room, the entrance, has Christmas cards from the presidents' collection and an oil painting of Lincoln identical to the one hanging over the mantle in Washington. The state dining room display is set for a formal dinner, but uses the breakfast menu from an invitation that former President George H.W. Bush extended to John Zweifel.
The other rooms showcase inaugural artifacts, the White House holiday ornament collection and china selected by each president's wife.
"The floral design selected by Lyndon Johnson is my favorite," Howe said. "But the most expensive was Dwight Eisenhower's. It has a 2 1/2-inch 24-karat gold rim on each dinner plate."
First ladies' gowns, all the presidents in life-size wax figures, a cup used at Lincoln's inauguration, the Reagan and Gorbachev toasting glass, tie bars and cuff links from presidents, and Jacqueline Kennedy dolls, wearing replicas of clothes designed by Oleg Cassini are all part of the exhibit.
John Zweifel also builds miniature models of Oval offices. His goal is to have a miniature of each office since William Howard Taft first initiated the office separate from the living quarters.
In President Ronald Reagan's office, a tiny jar of jelly beans sits on the desk.
Rosalynn Carter's dollhouse, which was in the Blue Room at Christmas when she was first lady, and a variety of artifacts from each president fill the largest room of the attraction. The exhibit is in a constant state of change, and the White House miniature goes on the road from time to time. Call before going to see if it is on display.
Howe, a retired schoolteacher, enjoys taking people on tours of the attraction. Schoolchildren, organizations and senior citizens clubs receive special rates.
"We can gear the tours to what the teachers may be teaching at the time," she said.
Delores Gordon was thrilled with the exhibit.
"The detail is better than the Smithsonian," she said.
Hal Gordon said he was breathless after seeing the exhibit.
"One man's dedication to develop an exhibition like this should be commended," he said.
- Michelle Jones covers central Pasco community events. She can be reached at (813) 226-3459. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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