Orlando-area man preserves elaborate N.Y. holiday displays - FOX 35 News Orlando

Orlando-area man who designed N.Y. holiday displays preserves treasures

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John Zweifel spends most of his time keeping a Clermont landmark and museum up and running.

But it's not the first important job he's held.

Running the 50-year-old Presidents Hall of Fame museum -- which features an incredibly detailed model of the White House, reproductions of White House furniture and rooms full of presidential memorabilia -- is a full time job for Zweifel.

But once upon a time, Zweifel designed and installed many of the elaborate department store window displays that helped make New York City's 5th Avenue shopping district world famous during the holidays.

The 1950s, '60s and early '70s are considered the heyday for the holiday storefront displays.

"It was magical," Zweifel said.

During that time, Zweifel designed displays for Macy's, Gimbels and Hudson's in New York as well as seven stores along Chicago's famed State Street.  

Being dedicated to both history and the holidays, Zweifel had the foresight to save many of the storefronts he designed and acquire some others he considered important.

Almost all are animated in some way, with extra touches that help make them memorable: dogs that really bark, and an oven that once emitted steam.

Today they sit, preserved as they were then, in a nondescript south Orlando warehouse.  

Zweifel takes the occasional visitor inside to see them, though they're generally not accessible to the public.

But he hopes to change that in the coming year.

Zweifel and his wife, Jan, recently bought land next to the Presidents Hall of Fame.

They plan to open a holiday museum filled with the storefront treasures he's saved from the junk pile and the ravages of time.

"We want these to come alive. We want these to last forever," Zweifel said. "There are too many treasures that have been lost through the years."

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