NUT SHELL NEWS
for the complete miniatures hobbyist‘\ February 1988 $3.25
The White House Restored
Easy-to Make Country Furniture A Houseful of Gorgeous Victorian Clutter
IN THIS ISSUE
38 PARALLEL WITH HISTORY Mr. and Mrs. John Zweifel request the pleasure of your company at the (restored) White House on July 4,1976. by Dianne L. Beetler
We celebrate President's Day with a visit to the Zweifels' Oval Office replicas and the miniature White House, tragically damaged in 1982, and now, magnificently restored. Photo by Dianne Beefier.
VOLUME 18, NUMBER 2 FEBRUARY 1988
"This is all a gift to the people from the people"
The Zweifel White House
PARALLEL WITH HISTORY
BY DIANNE L. BEETLER
When John and Jan Zweifel built their scale model of the White House, little more than a decade ago, they didn't dream that in a close parallel with history, that replica also would be destroyed and rebuilt. The British burned the original White House during the War of 1812, and the Zweifel replica was attacked in 1982 in an incident John now calls "The Holland Tragedy."
Since the replica was built, 40 million people here and abroad have gazed at the magnificent masterpiece and marveled at its intricate furnishings, which reproduce the White House as it looked July 4, 1976. During a goodwill tour of Europe in 1982, the replica was displayed at The Hague, the political capital of the Netherlands. In the early morning of April 9, 30 members of Onkruit, an anti-American group, forcibly entered the exhibition hall.
"They axed the porticos, crushed the furniture, and spilled six different colors of paint," John says. "They had wine bottles filled with paint stripper that they tossed on the building. They wanted the replica to be a heap of trash." The crime, he said, was an attempt to embarrass the Queen
Photo by Dianne Beefier
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of the Netherlands, who was scheduled to make a trip to the U.S.
The Zweifels, their six children, and hundreds of volunteers had labored more than 400,000 hours and spent more than half a million dollars to construct the detailed model. John had not spent all that time and money only to see his gift to the American people destroyed. He immediately began to rebuild the replica. "Every piece of furniture was crushed, and we lost a lot of carpets," John says. "It looked like one big trash can." The crystal chandeliers could not be saved because paint had discolored the string used to hold the beads together. The exterior was badly damaged, but the frame was intact. John estimated that they were able to salvage about half the materials used.
"If you can make it once, you can make it again," John vowed. The Queen sent restoration experts to assist the family, and hundreds of citizens volunteered to help. American Express, KLM Airlines, and Hilton Hotels helped transport, lodge, and feed experts flown from the
The wallpaper in the Diplomatic Reception Room (above) features American landscapes such as Niagara Falls and Boston Harbor. The oval rug has emblems of all 50 states, and took four years to create. The East Room (below) contains a grand piano. Since he was not allowed to measure it for security reasons, John could only estimate its dimensions.
The 1" to l' scale model of the White House (opposite) measures 60' long and 20' wide — so large that a trac-tor-trailer truck is required to haul it. John Zweifel accepts reimbursement for transportation, but he does not make any money from the replica. John (inset) sets the table in the State Dining Room. Each of the 120 place settings has three hand-blown goblets.
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In addition to the White House, the Zweifels have completed vignettes of the Oval Office in recent administrations, and other White House rooms, such as President Ford's study (left).
U.S. to help. Just seven weeks later, the replica was ready to exhibit in London. Viewers could detect no sign of the destruction. "We did cosmetic things," John admits, "but it was Hollywood cheating. Some drawers wouldn't open, and photographs instead of paintings were hung on the walls.
"John's passion for accuracy and perfection, however, found such substitutes unacceptable. For the first time, John removed the replica from tour and, in the winter of 1985, returned it to his workshop for three months of repair, replastering, and replacement. Although he and his family carved the furniture, other artisans have helped with the project, which John describes as "a labor of love." As an example, 25 craftspeople are working to re-create more than 50 petit point carpets. Miniaturist Judith Ohanion began charting the oval carpet in the Blue Room two years ago, working from photographs taken by the Zweifels and a pattern tracing made by their son, Jack. They estimate it will take Judith three to four years to complete the carpet, which measures 19" x 23-1/2". "The rug is my contribution," Ju-
"We want people to feel as if they were walking through the White House with the President at their side."
The Oval Office during the Nixon Administration (right) is strikingly decorated in blue and gold.
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dith says, but I consider it minor. The White House is the magnificent thing. My payment will be a tremendous amount of pride and the knowledge that the rug will be here long after I'm gone."
"This is all a gift to the people from the people," John says. In all, more than 22,000 volunteers have helped, from crafting miniatures to serving as hosts during exhibitions. The actual White House has 130 rooms, 50 of which have been completed in the replica. Every detail is included, from chimney smoke to a ringing telephone in the Oval Office. Not even trash cans or fires in the fire-places are omitted, and the television sets in the President's study actually work, picking up local channels in the areas where the White House is displayed.
Although the facade on the West Wing is not removed, visitors can see the finished offices through the windows. The Press Lounge, Cabinet Room, and Press Office can also be seen. "The Queen's Sitting Room and Bedroom are just being shown," John explains, "but we've worked on them since 1972." The theater, with a working movie projector and a screen which can be raised and lowered, was started 12 years ago, but is not yet finished. The Flower Room, when completed, will include cool air, the aroma of flowers, and 50 to 100 floral arrangements. The smell of baking bread will waft in from the kitchen.
Although the Blue Room is displayed in the replica, John has created a special Blue Room Christmas vignette showing the room as it appeared in 1984, decorated for the holidays. While they continue to add to the rooms in the replica, the Zweifels also are constructing a series of vignettes illustrating changes in the real White House. In the 20,000 square foot workshop they call "The Dream Factory," they have completed vignettes of each president's Oval Office. Many companies have donated supplies and tools for the project. "It's the beginning of what we
President Reagan's Oval office (top) reveals a traditional elegance, while that of the Kennedy Administration (above) is decorated with subdued luxury.
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hope will be a long and historic record," John says.
John and Jan hope that someday the replica will have a permanent home (perhaps with a scale reproduction of the White House lawn and a simulated sky with moving clouds). In the meantime, as the miniature White House tours, John encourages visitors to gaze at the display as long as they wish. He does not charge admission to the exhibit, because he wants to make the replica available to every American. "I will never allow glass in front of the display; that would create a barrier," John says emphatically. "It would be like watching TV! We want people to feel as if they were walking through the White House with the President at their side." ❑
Work on the Queen's Sitting Room (right) which has just been completed, was begun in 1972.
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