Presidents Hall of Fame
123 U.S. 27 North, Clermont 34712
Adults $11.95, children (5 to 12) $6.95
Hours: Daily 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Location: About half a mile north of SR 50, near Citrus Tower
Next to the Citrus Tower (see above) sits a small porticoed house that is home to an even smaller porticoed house. This is Presidents Hall of Fame, a meticulous scale model of the White House that has been the life’s work of Orlando resident John Zweifel and his wife Jan. Anyone who’s into modeling or anyone who’s helped a child build a doll house will want to visit this astonishing work.
Inside you’ll find life-sized wax-museum-style statues of all the U.S. presidents, from Washington on down, that are a fascinating chronicle of the evolution of upscale American male clothing over the years.
In the first of the two display rooms in this small museum is a 16-foot square diorama depicting the building of the White House as it might have looked in 1797, three years before its completion. At a scale of three-quarters of an inch to one foot, we can watch the dozens of stonemasons, carpenters, and laborers ply their trade while George Washington himself surveys their progress. Washington, by the way, was the only president not to live in the White House, even though he supported the project.
The pièce de résistance, however, awaits in the much larger second room. Here you will find the 60- by 22-foot model of the White House executed in a scale of one inch to the foot. It took Zweifel, his wife, and hundreds of volunteers over 500,000 man-hours to bring the model to its present state and apparently they’re not done yet, since the work is billed as an ongoing project. The result is impressive. They have re-created not just the main building but the East and West wings as well, all in astonishing detail.
As you enter the room, you see the front of the building. Peek through the windows and you can glimpse details of the rooms inside. But walk the length of the model and around to the back and the entire White House will be revealed to you. In doll house fashion, there is no rear wall and here the full extent of the Zweifels’ accomplishment becomes apparent.
The scope of the re-creation and the attention to detail are astounding. You can spot pens on tables, cigar burns on tabletops, even the occasional gravy stain. The clocks tick, the phones ring, the television sets are on (picking up Orlando stations oddly enough). Along the wall behind you are dioramas of the Oval Office as decorated by a series of recent presidents.
The gift shop offers a surprising number of books about the White House and the presidents who have lived in it along with an assortment of more traditional souvenirs. A few items (not for sale) are worthy of Ripley’s Believe It or Not! You can see, through magnifying lenses, the flags of all nations painted on a grain of wheat or a portrait of the Kennedys, John and Jackie, executed on the head of a pin. What possesses people to do this sort of thing?
Some of the exhibits go on tour from time to time and so may not be there when you visit (Tribute to the Presidents, for example, traveled to the 2000 Republican Convention). On the other hand, the Presidents Hall of Fame sometimes hosts exhibits on loan from presidential libraries and other museums.
Nearby: Citrus Tower, Lakeridge Winery.
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