12 AIR TRAVEL JOURNAL/November 16-December 6, 1992
Touring the White House... in Boston
By Colette Bachand Wood
"The White House Exhibition" opens Noy. 17 at the JFK Library. SMITHSONIAN PHOTO BY ERIC LONG
In 1979 a young politician from Arkansas came to view John Zweifel's 'White House Exhibition" in Washington.
Zweifel was proudly displaying his 60 foot replica of the capital when the Arkansas politican told him squarely, "I'm going to live there one day."
Zweifel said he didn't take the man seriously. The man was President-elect Bill Clinton.
Artist and historian John Zweifel was in Boston the first weeks in November preparing his 'White House Exhibition" for its opening
"There is so much history of each president in the White House, I wanted to give it back to the people."
at the Kennedy Library on November 17.
The White House replica, a more than 32-year-old on going project, will be in the Library's pavillion for the next year while the museum's permanent exhibit is reconstructed.
Zweifel says he has worked with every administration since the Kennedys in creating his replica.
The model. 60 feet by 25, is an exact recreation of the White House. So exact that hand carved furniture is made from the same wood used for the original pieces. Glass pieces are made of real hand blown glass: the clocks really tick, the phones really ring, and the televisions really work. No detail has been left out, including pens, pencils, cigar burns, gravy stains and extention cords.
Zweifel, who has been making models since boyhood, says he developed the idea for the White House from a feeling that the White House is "everybody's house" and that it belongs to the people.
"There isn't a subject that strikes the heart of the American people more than the White House," Zweifel said. "There is so much history of each president in the White House, I wanted to, give it back to the people."
Getting into the White House to create the model wasn't always easy. He started by sitting on the White House steps and taking tour after tour to get ideas and measurements. Finally, Jackie Kennedy worked with him and let him in where few people had been before.
"I remember the first time I went in," Zweifel said. "I tried to get a count of all the stars and eagles in there ... I couldn't count them all.
"Over the years, Zweifel says that the First Ladys have been influential with his project. It has been exhibited at the White House, the Smithstonian Institute, and the Ronald Reagan Library, and has served, much to Zweifel's pleasure, as a diplomat of the U.S., traveling all over the U.S. and abroad.
Over 45 million people have viewed the replica, including international figures such as Queen Beatrix of Holland, and former Russian President Gorbachev.
Zweifel is a consultant for Disney World, and was creator of the famous Christmas window displays at Filene's and Jordan Marsh in downtown crossing during the 50's and 60's.
While in Boston, the replica will undergo changes as the Clinton administration steps in and the Bush "decor" of the White House personal quarters are ushered out. Zweifel says he has a warehouse full of old administration's furniture. Kennedy's furniture will be displayed along with the replica at the JFK Library.
At Christmas, the model will be decorated with lights just as they are in Washington. Zweifel will travel between Boston and his home in Orlando to update the model during its Boston stay.
While at the museum, the replica is being photographed for Norton Books, who is publishing a coffee table style picture book of the White House in conjunction with the. House's bicentennial anniversary. It is scheduled to appear on shelves by April 1993.
The White House Exhibition. Zweifel says. has been a family project and his wife and six children have all taken part in its creation. Everyone who ever worked on it or donated time and skill, did so on a volunteer basis, ac-cording to Zweifel.
"It is made by the people, for the people." he said.,
If it sounds as though Zweifel is sentimental about his project, that's because he is. He said of all his work, the White House Exhibition is the most dear to his heart. "Make yourself at home," he says to those who want to view the exhibit, "it's your house too."