Presidents Hall of Fame
Wauchula, FL - Events of Wednesday, September 5 to Monday, September 10, 2018
On Wednesday, September 5, we had a few errands to run over in Sebring. Instead of stopping at Dee's Place for lunch like we frequently do, we went to one of our new, favorite restaurants instead. We chose Dimitri's as an alternate because we went there with a group from the Co-op two weeks prior, and we really liked it.
This time, Margery had a gyro ($6.49) and a side of onion rings ($1.95), and Paul had a smothered chicken sandwich (grilled chicken breast with sauteed onions and peppers and provolone cheese on a pretzel roll for $7.49). The gyro was delish, and even though Paul's pretzel roll got a little soggy from all the sauteed onions and peppers, the sandwich was still quite tasty.
OakWood Grill is one of our favorite places to go for ribs. They usually have a special price of $13.99 on a full rack of ribs on Sundays through Wednesdays (regularly $16.99); but for the month of September, their special price was $11.99. Unfortunately, the closest OakWood Grill is in Clermont, which is about two hours away from the Co-op. We decided we wanted to go have ribs the following Monday (September 10) so we were looking for another errand or sightseeing opportunity in or near Clermont to help justify the trip.
Last time we went to OakWood for ribs, we went to Citrus Tower beforehand. Click here to read about that trip. This time on our way to OakWood we went to the Presidents Hall of Fame, which is located right next to Citrus Tower. The Presidents Hall of Fame is an old Florida tourist attraction that features wax figures of most of our presidents, replicas of many first ladies' inauguration gowns, a collection of White House china, election memorabilia, a collection of White House Christmas cards, and a replica of the White House in miniature.
When we first arrived, we stopped for a selfie with the scaled-down replica of Mount Rushmore located outside.
From there we headed to the museum.
There is also a down-sized version of the sculpture of Lincoln from the Lincoln Memorial outside the entrance.
Tickets to the museum are $15, and the fee includes a pass that's good for a whole year. With the pass we figured we could use the Presidents Hall of Fame as an excuse to go to Clermont for ribs at least a couple of more times in the next year.
Inside the museum, we were given an introductory tour by the lady at the front counter, then we were free to explore on our own. There were wax figures of many of the earlier presidents we didn't immediately recognize, but the photo below shows a some of the more recent ones along with two of the first ladies.
In addition to the model of the White House we mentioned previously (more on that shortly), there is a smaller model depicting the White House under construction. Building of the White House started in 1792 and took 8 years to complete.
The museum also has a replica of the Liberty Bell.
The Resolute Desk was a gift from Queen Victoria to President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1880. The desk is made from timbers from the British Arctic exploration ship Resolute.
Many presidents have since used the desk in various locations in the White House, but it was Jackie Kennedy who first requested the desk be brought into the Oval Office in 1961 for President John F. Kennedy to use. The bottom of the desk was originally open in the center, but a door was added by Franklin D. Roosevelt so his leg braces couldn't be seen (FDR contracted polio in 1921 that left his legs paralyzed). There are several well-known photos showing John F. Kennedy's son, John John, peering out through the door from under the desk, and that's the way the replica of the Resolute Desk at the museum is depicted.
The main feature of the Presidents Hall of Fame is the 60-foot long model of the White House. Back in 1956 John Zweifel, who was 20 at the time, took a tour of the White House. He was very interested in what he saw, but was disappointed that the tour only included 5 rooms. He wanted to see the other 127.
Zweifel had begun carving and whittling at the age of 4. When he was a teenager, he built a 14,000-piece replica of the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus. Since he was an accomplished miniaturist he eventually decided he wanted to build a scale model of the White House, but that meant he would need to see the other rooms. After 6 years of letter writing, Jackie Kennedy finally agreed to give him partial access so Zweifel was able to start his model in 1962. However, after JFK's assassination in 1963, Zweifel's access to the White House dried up.
Following the resignation of Nixon in 1974, Americans were very distrustful of the White House so Gerald Ford wanted to open it up to everyone. Although the Secret Service didn't like it, Ford granted Zweifel full access. The model was ready to go on tour across the country in time for America's Bicentennial in 1976. Zweifel says the model will never be finished because he changes it as soon as he can get the necessary information whenever a new president takes office.
The side of the model representing the south side of the White House is open so visitors can see the incredible detail inside.
Each new president redecorates the Oval Office according to his own taste and needs. There are numerous separate models depicting the Oval Office as it was decorated under different presidents.
Speaking of redecorating, the private quarters also get redone. On inauguration day, the staff gets only 6 hours to move the old president and his family out, to redecorate the Oval Office and the living quarters, and to move the new president in. The Discovery Channel made a documentary on that subject using some of the miniatures at the museum. The model in the next photo showing the Oval Office in transition was used in the filming of the documentary.
The model of the White House spent much of its early life touring the country. Although it still goes on tour occasionally (we first saw it in 2010 at the Reagan Presidential Library in California), its home is the Presidents Hall of Fame. We're not sure when the Hall of Fame first opened, but it was acquired by the Zweifels from its previous owners around 1990. The museum itself needs a little TLC, and the Zwiefels are in the process of updating it. All in all, the Presidential Hall of Fame was pretty interesting, especially the scale models.
After the museum, we went a few doors north to OakWood Grill. The ribs were excellent as usual. Margery had mac and cheese and slaw for her sides, and Paul had his usual lima beans and slaw.
With our bellies full, we headed back to the Co-op for an evening of relaxation. We had special plans starting at the end of the week. We'll tell you about them in our next post.