Town model had been languishing – no longer!

Knowing David Burton’s meticulous model of Wolfville as it was in 1893 recently found a new home in the parlour at Randall House made many people happy.
The town centennial model had been languishing since about 1994 in David’s barn. A stint at Wolfville Elementary School had left the model a little worse for wear due to sticky little fingers.
The day he and I went to look at it in two pieces we both felt sad, but he was optimistic the model could be resurrected. And so it was – appropriately for the Wolfville 125 celebrations this summer.
After David dusted it off, checked for continuing historical accuracy and made some repairs, a handful of the town’s staff carefully helped transport the model across the street. The move went like clockwork and the two sections were melded together.
Randall House curator Krystal Tanner had done the math. She and David knew the 15-foot-long model would fit and it did nicely along the west wall.
Model of the previous Baptist Church
The model was originally constructed largely from locally available materials. A cabinetmaker by trade, David began with a three-inch thick plywood base that was built on a torsion box system for rigidity.
He cemented Styrofoam onto the base and then sculpted it according to a contour map for the area. Cheesecloth and plaster materials were utilized to place a thick cast over the foam.
Once the surface was textured to appear like mud or grass, acrylic paint provided the colour. David fabricated each building in pine to a scale of 1/16 inch to the foot.
He set out to portray the town in the summer of 1893. Main Street was dusty when dry and muddy when wet. There were footpaths and sidewalks on each side.
At that time the tide washed right across the main street in the vicinity of Willow Park. The model shows a 440 steam locomotive running into town on the Windsor and Annapolis Railway line.
David used the N-scale common to model railway builders, but his interest was in an inventory of heritage buildings. During his detailed research, he poured over old photographs and title searches that were compiled for the town’s heritage advisory committee of the day.
When he made the model David counted 27 properties that had survived more than a century. They are included. Among them are 13 houses or apartment buildings, one museum and 13 commercial properties.
Twenty-five years ago nine local businesses supported the construction of the model. Today it is amazing to note that only Victoria’s Inn is still operating, but it is under different ownership. All the others do not exist in the same form.
Looking at the model in its new forever home reminded me of the movie Wondstruck, which featured a 9,365-square-foot replica of New York City. Situated in the Queens Museum, this model is made of urethane foam, wood, plastic, hand-painted paper and bridges made of brass.
Children’s author Brian Selznick made the replica famous in 2011 novel. Wolfville’s model might not be as gigantic, but it’s still pretty cool – and it has come to life again thanks to model maker David Burton.

You can view the model now at the museum.