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Model of White House to be displayed at Washington County Fair Park

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Model of White House to be displayed at Washington County Fair Park

BY STEVE VAN DIEN STAFF WRITER


In a little less than two months, millions of Americans will decide who's going to the White House in January.

Next week, however, a version of the Executive Mansion will come to quite a few citizens in and beyond Washington County.

It's John Zweifel's hand-carved and justly famous model of the presidential home, to be displayed from Oct. 3-21 at the Washington County Fair Park.

Zweifel — who was born in Wisconsin and now lives in Florida — has been working on the Miniature White House since 1962, when then-President John F. Kennedy gave him permission for the project.

But Zweifel did not have unrestricted access to the real deal until 1975, when then-President Gerald Ford permitted the artist and his family to take photos and measurements. Every subsequent president has done likewise.

Therefore, the model is exact in every detail, from Abraham Lincoln's bed to notes discarded in the Calligrapher's Office wastebaskets. Its tiny telephones ring. Television sets, clocks and lights are equally small, but fully functional.

And though essentially complete, the Miniature White House remains a work in progress, since Zweifel updates it to reflect any changes in the Washington D.C. version. The artist has exhibited his model in all 50 states, and some 50 million people have seen it.


Tom Meisenheimer, managing director of the Fair Park exhibit, said he first saw the Miniature White House about 25 years ago at Marian College in Fond du Lac, while he was the college's vice-president.

About two years ago, Meisenheimer said, "I remembered it being such an exquisite display, and I thought 'Gee, I wonder where it went?"

Thanks to the Internet, he soon learned that the Miniature White House was at the Presidents Hall of Fame in Clermont, Florida. Meisenheimer then contacted Zweifel, and the artist said he'd be happy to bring the model to Wisconsin.

But that process wasn't the equivalent of a

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stroll in the Rose Garden. Although built on a one-inch-to-one-foot scale, the Miniature White House is 60 feet long and 20 feet wide, and it weighs 10 tons.

"It has to be delivered by a semi-truck, and it takes about eight guys to unload it," Meisenheimer explained. "Every piece has to be wrapped and unwrapped carefully."

Therefore, West Bend Savings Bank, West Bend Mutual Insurance Company and ---Ilan Management Services/McDonald's are among the project's sponsors

Other benefactors include Wal-Mart, Uptown Motorcars, the West Bend Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development/Waukesha County.

"The cooperation from the community has just been unreal," Meisenheimer said.

Entitled "Celebrating The Spirit of America," the exhibit will open Oct. 3 with a black-tie "Dinner at the White House," featuring the favorite dishes of many presidents at $100 a plate. The Kettle Moraine Symphony will be on hand to perform Aaron Copland's "Lincoln Portrait." Proceeds will benefit local charities.

For the remainder of the exhibit, tickets are $13 for adults, $12 for seniors over 65 and students aged 11-18, and $10 for four-to-10-year-olds. Kids three and under won't be charged admission.

Discounts are available for school and tour groups at (262) 677-5060.

"School groups are signing up like crazy," said Meisenheimer. "We're so lucky to bring it here."

"Celebrating The Spirit of America" will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays. Saturday hours will be 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Oct. 4, noon to 6 p.m. Oct. 11 and 9-9 again the following week. 

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