FLASH SALE # 3: Souvenir Buildings in Lucite

In 2002, the following article on “Souvenir Buildings in Lucite” by Scott Daniels was published in SOUVENIR BUILDING COLLECTOR, Volume 9, Number 1.  It is apropos for the upcoming Kneisel Collection Flash Sale 3: Lucite Embedded Buildings.

Building Blocks or Plastic Prisons?

We have seen them at yard sales and gift shops around the country: a building or monument trapped in a Lucite cube, rectangle, hexagon or pyramid.  Buildings in Lucite are a recent addition to the history of souvenir buildings.

The manufacturing of Lucite embedments (which is what buildings in Lucite are considered) began shortly after World War II.  It has remained on the best-kept manufacturing secrets, passed down to trusted associates.  Because of the highly technical knowledge required, and the amount of discarded material, the total number of manufacturers is very small.

 Lucite is a high quality form of acrylic that is a mixture of acrylic resin powder and monomer, a crystal clear liquid.  The versatility of Lucite allows it to be custom designed into a variety of shapes and sizes, incorporating many different types of embedded elements.  However, due to the chemical reactions during the process, not everything can be embedded.  All pieces are hand-made and involve a long tedious productiion process involving:

PRINTING, CASTING, CURING, SANDING, BUFFING, INSPECTION

The first step – if necessary – is to print the building name and/or the event on the base.

The next step is to mix the resin powder and monomer in specific proportions.  The result is a thick opaque liquid.  The mixture is hand poured into molds and allowed to partially harden.  At this point the building is hand placed into the Lucite layer. 

Most embedments are either plastic or metal.  Other collectors have told me that you can tell whether a piece is plastic or metal by the way the light reflects from it. If it appears dull it is most likely metal.  If it gives a bright reflection, it tends to be plastic. 

Another layer is poured over the embedded object and the Lucite is again allowed to harden.  During this stage of production the liquid Lucite is an opaque, milky white.  It is very difficult to center objects on multiple levels because you cannot see the objects below clearly.  Because the buildings are placed in the moulds by hand, no two Lucite pieces are ever 100% alike.

At this point the molds are cured.  The hardening Lucite molds are placed into an oven.  There, heat cures and pressure squeezes out the air bubbles, to completely harden the embedment. The curing process takes up to seven hours. 

After cooling, the Lucite embedments are removed from the molds, and the sizing process begins.  All Lucite parts are cast oversized to allow for shrinkage.  There are three steps taken to size the embedments.  The objects are ground down to size by hand on large industrial sanders.  A coarse grit-sanding belt is used first, followed by a medium grit belt and a final sanding with fine grit belt.  This makes it easier to polish, which is the next step.

Polishing, just as sizing, is all done by hand.  Polishing brings out the luster and high gloss of the Lucite not seen during the entire production process and also gets rid of the sanding lines.  Once there is a bright crystal-like finish the production of the Lucite embedments is complete. 

The final phase of the Lucite process is the inspection.  Each piece is hand wiped and visually inspected.  If there are flaws the part is returned for additional finishing or rejected outright and recycled.  Once the piece passes, it is boxed and shipped out. 

Some of the first buildings in Lucite date from the 1950’s.  The miniature of the Seagram’s building in New York City encased in Lucite was made around 1957 as a Lucite display lighter.  I guess there is no better way to showcase a modern building than to use a modern form of displaying the miniature version and making it useful at the same time. 

During the 1960’s many more buildings, including the The Metropolitan Life building in New York City, were produced. 

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One known to many collectors is the Travelers Insurance Building in Hartford, CT.  About 1000 pieces were made to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the company (1864-1964).  They were given away to Travelers employees and representatives over the U.S.  It is a very impressive piece, with all the Travelers buildings that occupy a full block in the city. (This is an update to the bronze inkwell given out in the 1930’s).

Recent photo of the 100th Anniversary Travelers Insurance Lucite Commemorative (not in original publication)

Another group of buildings embedded in Lucite are the Knights of Columbus convention pieces.  They consist of Saint Joseph’s Oratory (Montreal, Canada), St. Patrick’s Cathedral (New York City), and the Immaculate Conception (Washington, DC).  The Saint Joseph’s Oratory was given out at the 1967 85th Supreme Council convention.  St. Patrick’s Cathedral piece was given out at the 1979 Supreme Council convention, and the Immaculate Conception was given away at the Supreme Council meeting in 1989.  I’ve noticed that all the buildings encased are made of pewter with fine attention to details.  They are well worth having in your collection. 

In the 1970’s Lucite had reached its zenith with buildings of tourist sites being embedded in Lucite.  Sites such as Elvis Presley’s Graceland in Memphis, TN; Seattle’s Space Needle (in various sizes); buildings in Washington, DC and across the nation were very popular at tourist shops.

Just as the production of souvenir buildings declined in the late 70’s and early 80’s, when they were replaced by T-shirts and coffee mugs, so did their Lucite counterparts.  It just wasn’t cool to bring home a cube.

Most of the current Lucite buildings that you can buy at gift shops are from this time period.  They were just never big sellers in shops.  Some exceptions to this are the current John Hancock Tower in Chicago and Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

Many Lucite buildings can still be found everywhere and in every size.  So the next time you come across a few have fun with them.  Build a building block building with buildings inside!

And ….. OUT WITH A LAMB ……. maybe?

 Spring Cleaning Time is Now!

Orders received until April 20.  Shipped out by May 10.

It is that time of year when Souvenir Building Collector’s start to think about cleaning and dusting our Collections, and maybe, just maybe, we consider slimming down – our Collection that is.   

The Kneisel Collection is no different from other Collections; it needs slimming down.  In the spirit of Spring Cleaning, and Marie Kondo, if you are following the Netflix series, the Kneisel Committee is going to offer up selections from the Collection exclusively to current SBCS Members.  These items Bob loved, and we wish to pass the love on to other Collectors.

SBCS 2019 Spring Cleaning: Some Examples

This is no ordinary offer!   This time we are offering items from Bob Kneisel’s Collection that are NOT BUILDINGS.  This offering will be souvenir statues, busts, animals, transportation items and other non-building items.  The general rules of the offering are similar to last fall’s Pot Metal Box Luck offering: ONE Box per member. Paid-up member.  $25 dollars for a random selection of six (6) items with shipping included in the price.  Cost is slightly higher for a PayPal transaction.  

If you are interested in this exclusive offer to expand your Collection and add six randomly selected pieces to your “other” Collections, CLICK HERE for the order form.  Print and mail in your check or pay via Paypal.

See how easy it is to turn Spring Cleaning into Collection Enhancement.

In addition, SBCS Members in good standing can look forward to another Kneisel Collection offering later this year to commemorate our 25th Anniversary.  This offering will be a random selection of more desirable souvenir buildings from the Collection.  Look for details about this unique offer in our next newsletter.

THE KNEISEL COMMITTEE

POT-METAL BOX-LUCK

   

 

POT-METAL BOX-LUCK

Bob Kneisel relaxing at the 2015 SBCS Convention

There once was a collector called Kneisel

Of souvenir buildings he had a houseful

With generous foresight

To SBCS members’ delight

His Legacy provides surprise by the boxful!

A single box containing 5 items from Bob Kneisel’s bequest to SBCS is being offered to each paid-up SBCS member for $25 a box. The $25 covers packing and shipping.

The contents of each box will be randomly selected from some of the lesser or duplicative pieces in Bob’s collection.  They will be selected to fit 5 items into a USPS Medium Flat Rate Box. 

No member may purchase more than one (1) box from this offering.  Household memberships can purchase two (2) boxes.

This offer is time-limited.  You must be a paid-up SBCS member by October 1, 2018.  The Pot-Metal Box-Luck order must be received by October 15.  The boxes will be mailed the last week of October. 

So get your order in early.  You will be able to place your order starting September 1, 2018.

Click Here for Order Form

Bring Your Buck$ to Boston

A selection of approximately 25 souvenir buildings from Bob Kneisel’s Collection will be among the many offerings at the 2018 SBCS Convention SWAP MEET and AUCTION.  Ten of Kneisel’s buildings are shown below.  Don’t miss out on this opportunity at the 2018 SBCS Convention in Boston, July 13 – 15.  Here is a link to the Registration Information.

 

CHICAGO 2017 PHOTOS: Rare Souvenir Buildings and More ……..

The stories are swell at a SBCS Convention “Show and Tell.”

Original Irish Hill Tower and Gray Tower, Lenawee County, MI. Souvenir Buildings / Salt and Pepper Shakers.

Bill H. and Michael E. brought the tale and the evidence of the IRISH HILLS TOWERS saga.  Apparently in the 1920s a farmer,  who owned part of a hill that the Michigan Observation Company (MOC) sought to purchase for a tourist-based observation tower, refused to sell his portion.  Whereupon, the enterprising company purchased the adjoining piece of land and built the IRISH HILLS OBSERVATORY and opened it to the public in September of 1924, to great success.   By November of the same year (just 2 months later), the envious nay-sayer had built his own tower adjacent to the first and made it a bit higher to attract the tourists to his site.  Reacting to challenge the Michigan Observation Company added a second observation platform atop the first and called their tower the ORIGINAL IRISH HILLS TOWER.  The farmer then evened the height of his tower with the “Original” and named his tower the “Gray” tower.  MOC then countered with the threat of tearing down their tower and erecting a metal edifice so large that the challenge would be over.  From then until the 1950s the towers were competing attractions.  In the 1950s they were operated as one attraction with a gift shop between.   As of today, they are on the US National Register of Historic Places.  Bill’s and Michael’s Salt and Pepper Shakers depict the Original Irish Hills Tower and the Gray Tower.

Sofitel Hotel (a former City Hall), Amsterdam; Dordrecht City Hall, Netherlands.

From the KLM and Goedewaagen collection of Simon H. comes a pair of rare Goedewaagen porcelain buildings.  The building on the left is the Sofitel Legend Grand Amsterdam Hotel, the site and building has a long and storied history, prior to it’s re-incarnation as a hotel.  The building on the left is the City of Hall of Dordrecht.

 

Steve B. and Terry M. went building hunting with Joe K. at the start of the weekend in Chicago.  To the delight of all, the finds were special and the swapping even better.  Terry found the very nice St. Peter’s Basilica in the same mall that Joe found the University Hall and a mutually-agreed-upon swap was executed.

McPherson Opera House souvenir building and as pictured in a iPhone photograph.

Steve also shared his acquisition of the McPherson Opera House and the photo he had taken of the actual building.

There are lots of convention photos to be seen in the Members Only portion of the website.  Head on over to MEMBERS ONLY / CONVENTION PHOTOS and click one of more of the links under 2017.

KNEISEL COLLECTION: Initial Museum Donation

The MUSEUM OF ARCHITECTURE at TDCP Changa Manga Resort, Punjab, Pakistan is the first recipient of souvenir buildings from the Kneisel Collection.

A portion of the Cultural Foundation of Pakistan powerpoint presentation.

In June of 2016, Robert Kneisel willed his collection of some 4000 plus souvenir buildings and statues to the Souvenir Building Collectors Society. The SBCS formed a Kneisel Collection Team spearheaded by Chris S. to address the disposition of such a magnificent gift. The team quickly determined that the bulk of the quality buildings could form the basis of a permanent display of souvenir buildings in one or more museums. Planning toward this end began in August of 2016.

Serendipitously, in March of 2017, the Society was approached, through the SBCSociety website, by Muhammad Raza Kahn, President of the Cultural Foundation of Pakistan. He told of the establishment of a Museum of Architecture and requested, from the Souvenir Building Collectors Society, the donation of architectural models of world landmarks for a display to be entitled “EXPLORE CULTURE THROUGH ARCHITECTURE.

Joe K. and Chris S. took the lead in contacting and working with Mr. Kahn, who provided the Kneisel Collection Team with a powerpoint presentation detailing the plans for the Museum of Architecture and how it our small buildings would become part of the larger exhibit.  Click below to view the presentation (remember to hit the arrow to make it run):

https://book2rock.files.wordpress.com/2017/10/cultural-foundation-of-pakistan-museum-of-architecture-adited-copy.key

The team confirmed the suitablility of the request and selected an array of iconic world miniature buildings as the donation. The selected items made their way from Los Angeles, through Canada, and on to Pakistan, where they arrived in September 2017. They will be displayed at the ModelTown Museum in Lahore, Pakistan.

 

While this story is about the donation to the Museum of Architecture in Pakistan, it is also a reminder that SBCS is looking for other museums or appropriate institutions (library, university or college, city hall) who are interested in permanently acquiring souvenir buildings for display.  If you have a suggestion or two – Send the Kneisel Collection Committee an email.

 

Souvenir Building Collection for Sale!

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Above are just a few of the souvenir buildings included John Beasley’s collection.  Check out the collection being offered as a whole by John Beasley in the Sales/Classifieds by clicking here.

This SBCSociety website is a forum for selling or exchanging whole collections or individual buildings among collectors of miniature buildings. It is a good way to upgrade your collection or give others the opportunity to build their collections.