ORLANDO RESIDENT JOHN ZWEIFEL, A FRIEND TO THE PRESIDENTS
Local Bay Hill resident John Zweifel first toured the White House in 1956 when he was only 20 years old. However, the experience left a lasting impression with him. At the age of 20 he was already an extremely successful miniaturist. From the age of four, his talent began to shine through. As a child, Zweifel created any number of carved figures and practiced on objects from cardboard to bars of soap. In his teenage years, he built a 14,000 piece replica of the Ringling Brothers. After graduating from the Universty of Chicago Art Institute, he worked at the World's Fair as well as for Walt Disney and the Department of State (and eventually several President's).
Although his first visit to the White House meant that he could not see the entire building, he wrote to Jackie Kennedy and she allowed him greater access. James Becham, the first curator of the White House, worked with Zweifel on an event for the Shah in 1962 as well. However, this visit still did not include the entirety of the residence.
He continued to stay in touch with Presidents over the years but it was not until the presidency of Gerald Ford that he was allowed full access. Zweifel finished his for miniature model in 1976 in time for the bicentennial celebration. After completion, the model spent two decades on tour around the world. Today you can visit the model in Clermont at the Presidents Hall of Fame, where an even larger exhibit filled with wax figures resides. John Zweifel is grateful for the success of his career and the White House project but says it could not have been done without the loving care and support of his late wife Jan. Both he and Jan continued meeting many US presidents throughout the years, including Reagan and Bush 41.
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