Deck the White House
PHOTOS BY LINDA CHARLTON / SPECIAL TO THE SOUTH LAKE PRESS
Jan Zweifel refreshes Christmas decorations prior to installing them in the replica White House.
Zweifels' replica open for viewing at President's Hall of Fame
It's Christmas at the White House, and people in Lake County do not have to travel far to see it.
That's because in Clermont, the Presidents Hall of Fame attraction, at 123 N. U.S. Highway 27, is home to the 10-ton, 1,200-square-foot White House replica that owner John Zweifel and his wife of almost 60 years, Jan, built in the 1970s.
"It's going to be the finest, most special Christmas yet, like we've never done it be-fore," John said. The couple are decking out the replica with holiday decor, including about 100 miniature Christmas trees, dozens of wreaths, swags, holi-day-themed decorations, snow and more than 1,000 lights.
After checking all the lights and fluffing up every tree, all of which Jan made herself, John placed one of the tallest trees in the center of the Blue Room, so that it almost
John Zweifel Installs a Christmas tree in the Blue Room of his White House replica.
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touches the ceiling.
Once the holiday season is over, it's not clear when locals will get to see the Zweifels' White House again. John said he has been approached by officials in Washington, D.C., to take the replica back on the road to tour various presidential libraries and political events, as he did for years, beginning in 1976.
"We'll be driving the White House replica out of here on Feb. 1, so this will be the last Christmas that it will be on display here, at least for a while," he said.
The Zweifels have also made changes they hope will offer better views of the rooms in the East and West Wings.
"I think it's wonderful that it's being opened up, because people won't have to squinch down to try and look through the windows, and into the inside of the rooms to see what's inside," Jan said.
Carpenters Tommy Candido and Gerald Matthess were hard at work on the museum last week, sawing the front walls off the replica to open it up permanently.
In addition, John said he wanted to bring the White House "alive," so he's adding more features to the outside, including animated guards and a Marine Corps band in one of the gardens. He also is adding more detail to the White House physician's and housekeeper's offices.
In addition to the White House replica, the museum houses hundreds of other displays, including a State Dining Room replica and dioramas of 12 detailed Oval Offices, down to working television sets. There are also wax statues of all 44 presidents and thousands of pieces of memorabilia.
John said the pieces available to view at the museum comprise only about 10 percent of his collection. He housed the remainder in ware-house units in Orlando.
"There's nothing like this anywhere in the world," he said.
In the 1970s, when the Zweifels were building the replica, they were invited into the White House, where they stayed for weeks, painstakingly measuring and noting the details of every room, then built furniture, paintings, lamps, tables, desks, chandeliers, etc., to match what they'd seen. As each new president was elected and made changes, the Zweif-els would return for a visit and make the same changes to the replica.
Museum admission rates vary, depending on age, but a ticket purchase includes return visits for the entire year.
Hours of operation are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, but through the holidays, the museum will stay open until 9 p.m. on Fridays. For information, call 352-394-2836 or go to www.thepresidentshalloffame.com.