Jan Zweifel died on June 2. “None of what we’ve done would have been possible without her.”
CLERMONT – One of the main features at the Presidents Hall of Fame attraction at 123 N. U.S. Highway 27 is the 10-ton, 1,200-square-foot White House replica that owner John Zweifel and his wife, Jan, built in the 1970s.
On Wednesday, John was at the museum sitting at a desk in front of the replica, but he was there alone reminiscing about the time he and Jan spent building it.
He said they stayed at the White House for weeks, painstakingly measuring and noting the details of every room, then built miniature furniture, paintings, lamps, tables, desks, chandeliers, etc., to match what they’d seen. As each new president was elected and made changes, the Zweifels would return for a visit and make the same changes to the replica.
John Zweifel said although he and Jan made an excellent team through the entire process, he couldn’t have done any of it without her encouragement and most of all, Jan’s “gifted hands.”
He said Jan was responsible for everything from wiring the electrical to all the creative aspects that went along with it, including most of the sculpting, painting and tiny, intricate details visible in every room.
On June 2, Jan Cleary Zweifel died peacefully in her sleep at their home in Orlando.
Wednesday would have been her 84th birthday, and at the attraction, it was dubbed “Jan Zweifel Day.”
A huge banner with Jan’s picture stood inside. Scattered all over the presidential desk replica that sits in front of the White House miniature were photographs of Jan as a model in the 1950s and 60s; of her and John on their May 23, 1959 wedding day; of the couple with various presidents and first ladies they met and mingled with over the years; and of her in one of her favorite outfits on their 61st anniversary, celebrated just weeks before her death.
“Out of everything in my life, the greatest experience I ever had was having her by my side for our 61 years,” John Zweifel said as he held back tears. “I’m the luckiest guy in the world and none of what we’ve done would have been possible without her.”
According to information shared by the attraction’s staff and family members, Jan Zweifel was born on July 1, 1936, in Hinsdale, Illinois.
John and Jan Zweifel traveled throughout the country with the children to set the replica up and show it in places including presidential libraries and museums, presidential conventions and the Smithsonian.
Most recently, the Zweifels were working on plans and artistic details surrounding creations for America’s 250th birthday, which will be July 4, 2026.
John said since Jan’s death, he’s come across notes and messages of hers referring to a “6-year plan,” she’d set in motion in regards to volunteers she was working with for programs they wanted to have in every state to celebrate.
The couple spent countless hours at the museum over the years, continuing to improve and enhance displays promoting their love of America.
In fact, John said Jan slept in all three of the Fords’ homes in California, in Colorado and at the White House.
As you enter the museum, there is also a framed letter from First Lady Melania Trump, dated Feb. 11, 2020, addressed to Jan Zweifel. The letter came after Jan recently shared a copy of a book about the Zweifels’ journey in creating the replica titled “The White House in Miniature,” with the first lady.
“Thank you for sharing your wonderful book with me. I appreciate your thoughtful gesture,” the letter says. “As First Lady, I applaud your commitment to sharing the beauty and history of the White House with the American people.”
The Presidents Hall of Fame attraction is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, including on July 4, but in light of the coronavirus pandemic, visitors are being asked to check its website or Facebook page for updates.