Model Behavior

Retired Hampden-Sydney professor creates to-scale models of historical buildings. 

It all started with a toy train. Richard McClintock’s favorite thing to play with as a child was his electric train set, and as he got older he couldn’t stop tinkering and building.  

“Basically everything I have done for the rest of my life resulted from having electric trains as a child,” says McClintock. “I learned how to make models that way, and then making models that looked like real buildings got me into architectural history.”

Now 72 and living in Farmville on the campus of Hampden-Sydney, where he worked for more than 40 years as a Latin professor and the director of publications, McClintock channels his creativity and affection for history into paper model kits of historic buildings. His first project was about three years ago when, after perusing the gift shop, he found that Smithfield Plantation in Blacksburg didn’t offer model kits. He created and sold the kits at cost in the gift shop, and before he knew it he was receiving orders from historical organizations for commissioned pieces, like Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest. 

“Poplar Forest is by far the most complicated one I’ve made so far,” McClintock says. “With it being Jefferson it was complicated to begin with, and there were so many little secrets to discover in the process of doing it.”

To prepare the kits, McClintock first familiarizes himself with the building. If he can’t access photos or plans through the Historic American Building Survey, he’ll visit the site, take his own photos, and count the bricks to determine the dimensions.

“One building I did that for, I later discovered the drawings for it and I was only six inches off,” he says. “So I’m assuming it’s a reasonably accurate technique.”

He then designs each piece digitally, and prints them out on cardstock. And by the time each piece is cut out and glued together, he says, it’s “remarkably sturdy.” He’s always been a natural when it comes to making things with his own two hands, and creating these model kits allows him to pass that along to another generation.

For McClintock, it’s a labor of love. Rather than pocketing the profits, he donates it all to the historical organizations themselves.

Keep an eye out for McClintock’s models at historical sites’ gift shops, or contact him directly through his website for a custom order. Prices range $6.95-$19.95. Historic-Models.com 

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