Saturday, January 23, 2010

Replica of the White House at Museum of Science & Industry

"The White House: A Look Inside"
(Tribune photo by Michael Tercha / January 12, 2010)

John Zweifel's "The White House: A Look Inside." The display, which has been a 50-year labor of love for the 73-year-old Zweifel, is a 1-inch to 1-foot exact replica of the current White House on display at the Museum of Science and Industry through February 15.

Few Americans get the chance to step inside the White House, so Zweifel and his wife, Jan, created the next best thing — a 60-by-20-foot replica fastidiously updated down to the new wallpaper in President Barack and Michelle Obama's bedroom.

The Zweifels have dedicated nearly 50 years and deep personal finances to research and construct the model that anchors the exhibit "White House: A Look Inside" on display at the Museum of Science and Industry through Feb. 15.

Their dedication to the project seems all-consuming, but they express their intentions in terms that make their unbridled patriotism clear.

"It belongs to everyone: It belongs to you, and it belongs to me," said Jan Zweifel, who with John and their six children whittled, wired and molded each delicate chair or working television. "And we're just trying to give the White House to the people."

The structure, which in 1975 began its journey on a 50-state tour to mark the bicentennial, weighs 10 tons, is based on a 1-inch to 1-foot scale and has consumed more than 600,000 hours of labor — or the equivalent of 68 continual years. The Zweifels have relied on tens of thousands of volunteers for set-up and dismantling.

According to the book, "The White House in Miniature," the estimated cost of the exhibit when it was conceived was more than $1 million.

Courtesy: Chicago Tribune