Justin’s Japan: When the White House Came to Japan

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By JQ magazine editor Justin Tedaldi (CIR Kobe-shi, 2001-02) for Shukan NY Seikatsu. Justin has written about Japanese arts and entertainment for JETAA since 2005. For more of his articles, click here.

About 30 minutes west of Orlando in Clermont, Florida is the Presidents Hall of Fame. This informative, family-friendly spot contains realistic wax figures, hundreds of pieces of political memorabilia, and a roadside replica of Mount Rushmore.

Its centerpiece is a 60-foot long scale reproduction of the White House with full interior, which has taken over 40 years to research, design and construct. The White House in Miniature was created by John and Jan Zweifel of Orlando, Florida, their family, and hundreds of artisans, creating what the Hall describes as “a gift to the people.”

“John Zweifel developed its concept in 1956,” said Tommy Candido, art director for the Hall. “In the 1960s, he started putting drawings together and doing the research. There’s one story where he found some blueprints in the basement of a library in Chicago. The Secret Service came because they were supposed to have it, but nobody knew about it.”

The miniature toured Japan in July 1995 at a Smithsonian Institute-sanctioned display in Chiba celebrating U.S.-Japan history on the 140th anniversary of the Treaty of Peace and Amity. Attending the opening event were Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, Walter Mondale, and Prince and Princess Akishino.

Candido noted that Zweifel, who is also the Hall’s owner, “has plans for the U.S. Tricentennial in 2076. He has passion and wants this to reteach the people that the United States is more than politics; the replica and the museum transcends politics. If there’s anything that in existence is bipartisan, it’s here.”

The Presidents Hall of Fame is located at 123 N Hwy 27 in Clermont, and is open seven days a week. For more information call (352) 394-2836, email phofjz@gmail.com, or visit their homepage at www.thepresidentshalloffame.com.