My parents had no interest in my activities, other than to insist on my focusing on school work. Of course this was a completely lost cause and the source of much despair. For the next fifteen years, my school and social life meant virtually nothing to me.
First, I needed to acquire the plans of the Versailles Palace. It was Dr. Kasten who discovered a French source for the architectural plans of the Palace of Versailles.
Early on I realized I had to trim my expectations considerably. The Palace of Versailles is an enormous structure with vast wings and multiple stories covering more than one-quarter square mile of land. We selected the scale of one-half inch to one foot as our standard, but even then the footprint would have been way beyond the garden area allotted to me.
The actual Palace of Versailles went through many expansions, alterations and re-models between the 1660s and 1700. I selected the period of the 1670s for my model, for to me it was the most exquisite form the building had taken. The grander, more imposing additions came later, but they never completely eclipsed the beauty of the 1670s building.
|Painting of Palace in 1675|
|Mr. Cox offered concrete suggestions.|
He was a retired concrete builder. He had been involved in building some of the great dams in the west. He noticed my struggles with trying to mix cement, build forms and put things together. He saw my misery when I showed him my poor hands that were rapidly being destroyed by exposure to wet cement. Mr. Cox told me that I should always wear gloves and never handle the wet cement bare-handed. When I asked for a cure for my ragged hands, he said, “I know you’ll never do it, but it works right off, and will fix you fine.” I insisted on knowing, and he said, “Well, you have to do it thoroughly, and you won’t like it.” “Tell me, please,” I insisted. “What you do is piss on ‘em” he revealed. “I WHAT!” I sputtered. “I said you wouldn’t like it, but it’ll do the trick,” he said. As soon as I was alone, I did as he advised, and within a day or two my hands were healing over, and a week later, wearing gloves this time, I was back working the concrete. He knew the chemistry – acidic urine neutralizes the caustic lime in concrete. Indeed! So it always pay attention to those with experience! Mr. Cox explained the fundamentals of pouring concrete into forms and constructing the forms so they don’t collapse under the weight. It didn’t take me long to learn the basics, and pretty soon the walls of the palace began to rise.
|Raw concrete walls of our model. Things were moving forward.|
|Basic"mansard" roofs are up and some of the exterior decorations have been put in place. Much more has to be done, however.|
|View of our progress with glazed windows and doors. Also, much of the fancy roof decorations, railings and so on, are appearing.|
|This view shows that most of the basic exterior construction has been completed. It seemed appropriate to "populate" the building, so vehicles and people were added to make the palace appear alive.|
|Notice that the forecourt with grills and gate, also the "guard" blocks with massive sculpture were also in place.|
In this view you see the builder is accessing one of the upper rooms.
|At 19, my youthful impression of this famous room. Since then the French government has spent millions restoring it to its original 17th century grandeur.|
|This is an attempt at the statuary that topped the "guard blocks" at either side of the |
forecourt grill. This is our "best effort" at allegory from descriptions and poor photographs.
|The weather quickly took its toll on the palace and occupants.|
Years later, after moving to Santa Barbara and then to Ojai, my wife and I opened a small gallery in our home for the Historical Figures. It was then that the remains of the palace were brought to Ojai and put in display cases in our gallery.
I have never lost my passionate love of Versailles, but the overwhelming obsession with my building architectural models has faded. Given enough funding, however, Versailles just might return, and result in a fabulous folly in my present garden.