Veterans Memorial Committee member Vickie Lee, left, and her husband, local artist and model builder Jerry Lee, right, display their miniature replica of the historical Hopkins County Courthouse, which will be on display throughout the community as a fund-raising tool for the Veterans Memorial project. Tower paperweights, like the one Judge Cletis Millsap, center, was presented with, are available for purchase at Texas Art and Frame. All proceeds go to the Veterans Memorial project.
Staff Photo By Angela Pitts

Magnificence in Miniature

Local artist Jerry Lee fashions a model of the county courthouse to help spark interest in Veterans Memorial

By PATTI SELLS, News-Telegram Feature Writer

May 1, 2008 - The "WOW factor" is what local artist and model maker Jerry Lee was going for as he dedicated more than 600 hours to creating a miniature model of the historical Hopkins County Courthouse.

But that's not the response he got from Hopkins County Judge Cletis Millsap -- at least not right away.

"I'm speechless," said Judge Millsap. "It is so perfectly detailed, all the painstaking effort that must have been put into it. I'm reminded what a beautiful structure this courthouse really is. Jerry is a true artist. He did a fabulous job."

An artist and model builder for more than 40 years, Lee and his wife, Vickie, owners of Texas Art and Frame, made Sulphur Springs their permanent home in January of 2002.

The couple immediately submerged themselves into the community by opening their business just off the downtown square at 206 Church St., and soon after ogt involved in events and projects throughout the county.

Jerry Lee was the artist who designed the commemorative sesquicentennial poster honoring the 150th birthday of Sulphur Springs. The poster was auctioned to the highest bidder, with all proceeds going to the town's celebration in 2004.

Vickie was also involved behind the scenes with the sesquicentennial and was instrumental in getting new Christmas decorations for the downtown square, as well as hosting local art shows and festivals to promote cultural arts throughout the area.

It was actually Vickie's involvement as a committee member of the Veterans Memorial project that prompted Jerry to construct a three-dimensional model as a fund raising tool.

"I originally intended to build only the memorial, but after giving it some thought, I felt including the courthouse would enhance the impact of the model," Jerry explained. "A well=done architectural model can have a great impact on contributors when it comes to showing an idea, or dream, in three dimensions.

"Plus, I thought building it would be fun, even if something went awry and the memorial didn't come to fruition," Jerry added.

Because it would be several months before a design of the memorial would be settled on, Jerry started on the courthouse. With no elevation drawings, Jerry had to scale everything from photographs.

"A tape measure came in handy, too," he said with a laugh.

Over the course of eight months, Jerry managed to devote approximately 600 hours between other jobs, working evenings and weekends to produce the courthouse phase of the project.

"Before I cut my first piece of material, I spent many hours just figuring out how to approach construction," he explained.

He used many different types of material, mostly plastics and acrylic, and specialized composite materials when called for.

The model has more than 25 different colors and textures and includes streets, curbs, paving bricks, sidewalks, planter walls and landscaping. There are 34 wall sections making up the first three floors, and 20 sections, 14 gutters and 10 downspouts comprise the roof. There are 149 windows with more than 15 different configurations, each having a window frame and glass.

And then there's the tower.

"It had to be constructed in a way that would allow it to attach to the roof section with its testy geometry," Jerry said. "I designed the model so the tower could be removed as a separate unit from the lower walls."

That's when the idea came to cast tower units as paperweights that could be numbered and sold as a means to also help raise funds for the memorial wall project.

"Anyone from this community would be proud to have one of these," said Judge Millsap, who was honored to receive the very first tower replica.

According to Jerry, phase two of the project, the Veterans Memorial model, is 95 percent complete and will soon be added to the courthouse model.

"The Lees have given a lot to this community," Millsap added. "We have a wonderful team working for the betterment of Hopkins County, and Sulphur Springs and the courthouse are a big part of Hopkins County history."

Vickie said the miniature will be a "moving model" that will be on display at various locations throughout the community, such as local banks, as a tool to raise money for the Veterans Memorial.

"The courthouse is very important in this community," said Vickie..

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