Clermont Boasts First National Treasure "a Gift to the People From the People"
by Frankie Brady
John and Jan Zweifel are pictured with the miniature of the "Blue Room." It is an actual replica of President and Hillary Rodham Clinton's Blue Room, which is decorated festively for the Holidays.
The famous words "And so, my fellow Americans—ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country" were uttered by President John F. Kennedy during his famous Inaugural Address on January 20, 1961.
Central Floridian John Zweifel has answered the call. His lifelong ambition to bring the White House to the people has culminated in the creation ofa national treasure: the White House Replica. This animated replica, which measures 20 ft. by 60ft., tells the story of the world's most famous house with purity, and it transcends all Presidents and politics.
Zweifel's desire was, and still is, to create the actual experience for the American people, most of whom will never he able to tour the White House. The historian and artist stressed that it belongs to all Americans. "We want to show the White House and the Presidents as they are to create a better understanding. We want them to be 'House' proud," he explained.
The Replica, which has been displayed in all 50 states and in Holland, England and, most recently, in Japan, was exhibited in 1992 and 1993 at the Smithsonian Institute and at the Kennedy and Reagan libraries.
More than 45 million people, have viewed it during 300-plus showings. Four of the last six attracted more than 1 million people. Its permanent home will be the House of Presidents, which is one of Central Florida's oldest attractions. It is located next to the Citrus Tower on U.S. Hwy. 27 in Clermont.
The Replica is an exact reproduction of the world's most famous house. room by room, on a one-foot-to-one-inch scale. It weighs 10 tons and required more than 600.000 man-hours and 32 years to construct.
Zweifel is quick to point out that the project would not have been possible without the diligent efforts of his wife, Jan, their six children. Jack. James, Kathryn. Ray. Janet and Julie. and countless volunteers.
He emphasized it is an ongoing process since "Every time the White House changes a painting. we change a painting." The Zweifels stay in close contact with the Curator to keep abreast of all changes made, no matter how great or small. They also visit 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington. D.C. to do research. Jan said it all began when her husband toured the White House in the 1950s and was curious to know what was behind each of the closed doors.
Jan's involvement has included doing bookings and research and creating interiors. "It's been a gorgeous house to copy... Now we have the backing of the White House." The Zweifels purchased the House of Presidents almost one year ago but stress that it belongs to everyone. Jan also emphasized that many volunteers have worked on the project. Interestingly enough, one volunteer worked 10 years on a petite point rug for the Blue Room. only to learn that the original was to be replaced!
Every President since John F. Kennedy has participated, though some were more helpful than others. Zweifel credits former President Gerald Ford with giving the White House to the people.
"He allowed us total freedom so we could roam and do the research that had never been allowed or encouraged before. His office door was never shut," said Zweifel. who stated the Replica wouldn't have become a reality without the Fords.
It has been praised by presidents, first ladies and the general public as a masterpiece in the art of miniature. It is also considered to be one of the world' greatest miniature houses.
The Zweifel's gift is the product of several hundred thousand hours of research and construction. at a personal investment of more than $1,000,000.
He said the Lincoln Office is the most historically significant room since he had to read more than 100 books to create it.
The famous Replica, described as 'history in the making,— has been chronicled by Gail Buckland and is titled, "The White House in Miniature." Buckland held the Nobel Chair in Art and Cultural History at Sarah Lawrence College in 1991.
Brilliant photography for the book was done by Kathleen Culbert-Aguilar. who is recognized internationally as one of the world's finest photographers of miniatures.
Visitors are welcomed to tour the presidential gallery, which is the national research center. a depository and a shrine for all the Presidents.
Craftsmen will he within eyeshot of the public as they create the miniature furniture and accessories A total of 42 life-sized wax figures, representing each of the country's presidents are on display. In addition, 200 years of history taking the form of exhibits, diaramas, artifacts, photos, video presentations, animated attractions and the largest collectdin of personal china anywhere on loan is on parade.
The Grand Opening for "Holidays at the White House." is Wednesday, Dec 21. Holiday hours through the end of the year are 10 a.m to 10 p.m., with regular hours of operation 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day of the year. The gallery is even open on Christmas.
Admission is $7.95 for adults $4.95 for children ages 4 to 11, and free for those 3 year and younger. Season tickets are available. Groups discounts are available.
In the words of John Zweifel, "There's nothing like it in the world."