Explore the White House

Just got a note from Tim Gilleand announcing the launch of his site ExploreTheWhiteHouse.com, a fantastic 3D model of the interior of the White House. It’s still in the early stages, but I hope you’ll join me in welcoming and congratulating Tim and his brothers on the work their doing. I look forward to see more of it!

Ford Museum roadtrip

I managed to drive up to Grand Rapids, Michigan yesterday to visit the Ford Presidential Museum. I’m still processing the photos, including some I shot in 3D (you won’t need glasses).

UPDATE: Pete’s floor plans look great and are a terrific addition to the White House in Miniature exhibit; they provide some context that is a little lacking. Find the photo gallery here.

16 Things About the White House

There is a questionnaire going around the Facebook White House Fanatics group. I you’re reading this, you should consider going the group; it’s the place for all manner of non-political discussions about the White House.

Anyway, here are my answers:

1. You first became aware of the White House when:
Probably the Bicentennial celebrations in 1976, when I was 9. I was very interested in the presidential election. And I’ve stayed interested ever since.

2. You became extremely fascinated with the White House when:

I always loved the White House as both history and architecture, but I only studied it as much as I studied other pieces of great architecture (the skyscrapers of New York, castles of Europe, etc.). About 2004, I started thinking how great it would be to recreate great and/or ruined architecture at full scale, like a complete and painted Parthenon. But I was more attracted to the White House (and also 10 Downing Street) than I was the Parthenon and found a huge amount of detail available about it (less so about 10 Downing Street). And the more I found, the more I wanted to know.

3. Your favorite room at the White House is:
The hiddenest nooks and crannies.

4. If I could have an extremely accurate copy of any object in the White House it would be:
The Reagan Oval Office rug, altho Lord knows what I’d do with it.

5. If you were to save 3 objects from a fire, they would be:
1) The Gilbert Stuart portrait of Washington.
2) The Monroe Bellangé sofa.
3) Lincoln’s hand-written Gettysburg Address.

6. If you could visit the White House in any 2 periods in history, you would choose:
I’d love to see the fresh young Jefferson White House and the stuffy late-Victorian White House, say 1893, so I could follow Frances Benjamin Johnston around as her photo assistant.

7. The room you would most like to change is:
I would turn the Queens’ Bedroom suite in a Washington Bedroom suite.

8. How many times have you visited the White House?
Just once from the outside. I should have gone when getting a tour was easy!

9. Your favorite story about the White House:
LBJ demanding an absurd, high-pressure, multi-nozzle shower. That guy was America’s crazy uncle.

10. Your least favorite object in the White House:
Probably the new Green Room rug or else the gold dining chairs.

11. Do you favor the North Portico or the South Portico:
South Portico; it gets all the sun. I have a 16×20 photo I shot of it hanging in my study.

12. You’re an invited overnight guest, where do you hope to dine and sleep?
I’d like a dinner in the Blue Room and a sleeping bag in the Solarium. Who am I kidding? I wouldn’t sleep. I would creep around the basement all night with a sketchbook, tape measure, and camera.

13. If you could give a gift to the White House it would be:
A lost set of early Daguerreotypes, documenting all the interiors, hand-tinted by artists working inside the mansion for accuracy.

14. Your favorite state china service is:
Wilson, with Roosevelt a close second.

15. The best you remember the White House looking in photographs or in video:
I like it in night shots, especially with the West Wing burning the midnight oil.

16. First reactions to visiting the White House:
There’s a lot of junk hidden in the trees on the east side. I think I saw Susan Ford’s Mustang up on blocks.

Zweifel White House opens in Ford Library

The Zweifel White House in Miniature exhibit just opened at the Gerald Ford Library and Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

January 20 through May 24, 2009
GRAND RAPIDS — The White House in Miniature exhibit will be back at the Gerald R. Ford Museum.¬† Americans will now have the chance to get an insiders tour of “The Presidents’ House” without the hassles of traveling to the nation’s capital. That is why John and Jan Zweifel have labored since 1962 to create The White House in Miniature, a breathtaking scale model of the White House that is 60 feet long and 20 feet wide. The replica took more than 35 years to research, design and construct.

Among the features are tiny, working televisions, hand-carved chairs and tables, crystal chandeliers, portraits and miniature carpets that reproduce the originals stitch by stitch- each nuance of the White House is painstakingly reproduced to capture the elegance of one of the world’s most recognized residences.

If it took me 35 years to do something, I wouldn’t be bragging about it. Then again, working miniature televisions? Whoa.

I live 2.5 hours away from this, so if the weather is good in the next couple of weeks, I’ll probably find some time to visit.

Pete Sharkey: model citizen

Pete has passed along a link to his new blog Wingnut’s Workings, where he is documenting his progress on his fantastic White House models. Anyone who has read this blog should be familiar with his Oval Office and White House exterior models, but now he’s completing the West Wing interior! It will take months to finish, he warns, but already he has dizzyingly gorgeous pics of the Cabinet Room and others. To Pete, I award the Charles McKim Astonishing Accomplishment Loving Cup (the “Charlie Cup”).

White House furniture

John in NOLA sent a note that reminded me that I’ve never mentioned that reproductions of White House furniture are available from New York First Company, The History Company, and others. You can buy a full-scale reproduction of the Resolute desk, a queen-size reproduction of the Lincoln Bed, and Kittinger chairs of the same models used in the Cabinet Room, Roosevelt Room, and elsewhere (also available direct from Kittinger).

You can also get the desk directly from Victorian Replicas (US, I think), where it’s bargain-priced at 6 Gs instead of 12. Over at The President’s Desk (Canadian), you’ll pay more, but you can have it your way, in oak or mahogany, in three sizes, and with a variety of leather tops. And you can get matching credenzas and bookcases. Similar choices are available from Dominic Gerard (US, but made in Asia).

Rafi Furniture (Indonesia) seems to offers the Resolute and the Lincoln Bed (also queen-size) for far less than the others and claims to be highly accurate. Ryuki Furniture (Indonesia?) makes the desk also. The East Bay Trading Company offers one for a little more, probably imported from Rafi or Ryuki, altho they specify that it features a fold-down front for a keyboard and grommets for monitor wiring.

I’m curious as to whether any readers have ever bought one of these replicas.

Announcing: The White House in 3D

I have just posted a new page to house the latest addition to the site: Pete Sharkey’s incredible 3D White House. Pete has put untold hours into building a complete and highly detailed and accurate Presidential Park with White House extererior and grounds, giving us the opportunity to view it from perspectives we’ve never had before. Look all around the roof, the grounds, the gardens…. It’s amazing.

For those who remember Pete’s fantastic Oval Office replica, this one is only the exterior, so you can’t peak into Laura Bush’s dressing room.

You’ll need to load Google’s SketchUp or SketchUp Viewer (both free) and download the BIG 20 MB file, or you can just look at the many great images on the page. You can use the tour feature (View>Animation>Play) or click on the page tabs on the top of the opened model to see preset views

Thanks, Pete! For diligence, persistence, and patience in toiling in the basement over a hot oven, I hereby award you the Chef Roland Mesnier Baked Mansion Award (the “Rollie”).

White House replicas

Think you love the White House? Did you build your house to look like it? These people (and the Chinese and Lego governments) did….

Atlanta house

West of DC house

West of DC house from opposite angle

Chinese replica museum

Lego White House

And, of course, the Zweifel White House in Miniature

Thanks to Pete for the links…. Stay tuned for Pete’s release of his 3D replica built in Google Sketchup. I’ve seen tantalizing tidbits, and I’m on pins and needles.