Saturday/Sunday, December 13-14, 1986 The Green Bay News Chronicle Local 3A
Replica a labor of love
John Zweifel and the White House Replica, 20 feet high by 60 feet long, at the Expo
By Michael J. Sibilsky
"Welcome to the White House." When John Zweifel took his White House Replica, a miniature master-piece of painstaking historic detail, to Green Bay, he wanted to have it set up so that "if the president himself walked in, we'd really be ready for him."
For others as well, "we'd like to have the best show, the best display, so those who view it (through Dec. 21 at Green Bay Expo Centre) will leave with a good feeling and a smile, a better understanding and the sensation that they've actually been to the White House," Zweifel said.
After all, according to designer, historian and idealist artist Zweifel, "people are patriotic. I takes something like this to bring that out in them."
At the base, the replica is lined with 2-foot-high, handcarved (out of clay) statues of the presidents - from Washington to Reagan. The model measures 20 feet high by 60 feet long, replicating the Executive Mansion's rooms and furnishings on a scale of one inch to one foot. The real White House is three football fields long, said Zweifel, a native of Monroe.
Years of extensive preliminary research and more than 400,000 man-hours went into the model's creation, the result of a "magnificent obsession" initiated 25 years ago, said Zweifel, who now resides in Orlando, Fla.
The replica incorporates hand-"people are patriotic. It just takes carved furniture constructed from the same woods used in the original pieces. Tiny paintings match the color and texture of the actual works. Drapes and bedspreads are duplicated down to the last tassel, and car-pets contain millions of stitches by "volunteers working many years," he said.
Even more incredible are telephones that ring, quarter-inch televisions that work, miniature clocks that keep time, hundreds of tiny lights that illuminate delicate chandeliers, wall switches that turn on and off, chimneys puffing white smoke, and fragrant smells - like from the Rose Gar-den - or turkey cooking.
The replica contains something from every administration, and depicts how the facility grew as the country grew. But "the White House is too small for today. It's not a gilded palace and it's still comfortable, but it's bursting at the seams," Zweifel said.
Of the 43 million or so people who've viewed the replica since it was unveiled in 1975, the "best audience" has been those who formerly worked in the White House and never knew what certain rooms looked like, Zweifel said. "Now they can see the Lincoln Room, for example, and many others, as can the rest of the general public, which has also been restricted on tours."
Many people, Zweifel said, mailed in old post cards, newspaper clippings and drawings to assist, and there were repeated visits to the White House for additional details.