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Monday, December 9, 2013

The President's Hall of Fame and the Citrus Tower

As winter drags on I'd like to take some more time talk about some of the wonderful tourist stops in the lovely state of Florida.  Last time I visited the state I had the honor of visiting this unique little attraction:  The President's Hall of Fame.

So, what is the criteria for being inducted into the President's Hall of Fame?  Its not made entirely clear, but my understanding is that there are roughly 43 members. 

My dedication shined through as I drove 45 minutes to find the Museum closed, and still took time to drive back the next day.

Opening in the early 1960s, The President's Hall of Fame was previously known as "The House of Presidents".   From what I understand it was a super-low tech version of Disney World's Hall of Presidents. 

Disney's Hall of Presidents
Instead of antimatronics they used wax figures and a tape recording.  It probably didn't help that the actual Hall of Presidents is 45 minutes away.  The fact that this attraction  is still standing in the direct shadow of Disney World when so many others have fallen is a testament to its charm.

In the 1980s. The Hall was purchased by artist John Zweifel who had a long standing fascination with the White House.  In the 60s John and and his Wife Jan would create an accurate 1/12 scale recreation of the White House.  Over the years they had been given surprising access to the entire White House to make sure that every detail was accurate.  Every room is meticulously made to match the details of the actual White House, down to the curtains and furniture.

John has turned the President's Hall of Fame into a permanent home for his creation, which was previously on tour all over the country.

The Museum is no longer a non-robotic version of the Hall of Presidents.  With the Miniature White House as a center piece, the Museum has kept the wax figures, but also has incorporated various presidential artifacts.

The exterior of the building is impressive in its own right, as it is built to resemble the Lincoln Monument.

The exterior also includes a photo op miniature version of Mount Rushmore.

I was fortunate enough to meet John Zweifel white I was visiting the Museum.   John said he took pride in the label of "Roadside America", but noted that he did take offense to reviews on the internet that described his museum as dusty and claiming that the wax figures where leaning over.  I talked with John about the other Roadside Attractions I had visited.  He asked me what my favorite attraction was and I told him it was "The House on the Rock" in Spring Green, WI.  I was surprised when he told me that he had actually created some of the miniature dioramas at the House on the Rock.  Here is John posing with a Wax Figure.....of himself.....

The figures were done well, with the exception of this horrifying Ghost Faced Hillary Clinton....

And this Teddy Roosevelt who appears to have his glasses attached to his face with caulk....

For some reason a lot of the president's appear to be bowing.  The don't look like they are falling over, it actually looks like they are engaged in group prayer.

The Hall of Fame is complete with every president, including Barack Obama.

The Museum has even been updated to include several animatronics.  Including this towering Lincoln that spooked me when it started talking out of nowhere. 

FDR gives his trademark speech with the push of a button.

My favorite presidential artifact is one of the original Florida voting boots from the 2000 Presidential Elections.

Now, I don't care what your political views are, but this thing is damn confusing, just take a look.

Seriously, where am I supposed to stick my stylus?

The Museum also has sideshow legend Tom Thumb's carriage.  Which has nothing to do with president's, but its so awesome, we'll let it slide.

That's a TV playing a  DVD of Ronald Reagan doing stand-up comedy next to the carriage.

On your way out, make sure that you get your fortune taken by the animatronic George W. Bush.

But wait!  There is more.  While it is not affiliated with the presidential Museum, another classic Florida looms overhead.

That giant monolith is know as the Citrus Tower.

The tower was built in 1956 as a way to allow tourists to observe the beauty of the local Orange groves.

The tower is in walking distance of the Hall of Presidents.  The bottom area looks like it used to be full of shops, but they are all empty now.  There is a make shit gift shop in the center of the building made of temporary partitions smooshed around the elevator.  You can ay an admission fee at this shop to go to the top.

The elevator takes you straight to the top, as there are no other floors.  Once at the top you are released into the observation area.  You can see 35 miles from the top of the tower, sadly, you cannot see a single Orange Grove as they have all been plowed over to make room for condos.

You can get a bird's eye view of the President's Hall of Fame though.

Also, there is a wishing well, where not only do you get to make a wish, but you get to listen to your penny plummet 226 feet.

Man, I love Florida.

The Carpetbagger

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