Student works on scale model of Ford’s Theater

Jessica Dreschel

Graduate student Timothy Simandl looks at his unfinished Ford’s Theater model. He hopes upon completion it will be on display in the basement of Ford’s Theater.

Credit: Andrew popik

Want to visit Ford’s Theater, the site of President Lincoln’s assassination?

Head on over to VanDeusen Hall.

Working from photos of the famous theater, graduate student Timothy Simandl is building a scale model of Ford’s Theater.

The model is plain white, with faint pencil marks outlining the basic architectural details. For now, the model is of the section of the theater where Lincoln was shot. Eventually, the model will depict the entire theater.

Simandl began work on the model in January. He was inspired to make the model while working as a tour guide at Ford’s Theater in 1999. The theater is still in operation today, and visitors to the historical site were often turned away because rehearsals or plays were going on, Simandl said.

He wants to provide visitors with a way to see the Ford’s Theater. He hopes the finished model will be housed at the Lincoln Museum in the theater’s basement.

At its completion, hopefully this summer, the model will look exactly like the theater did in 1865, complete with reproduced period wallpaper and draperies, Simandl said.

The model will also include light and sound effects to illustrate the chain of events that occurred April 14, 1865, Simandl said. 

Two curved white banisters enclose the front of the presidential box on the model. They are made of plaster so fine that it looks like sugar.

The banisters were completed on a machine called a prototyper, Simandl said. Computerized architectural drawings are fed into the prototyper. From this point, the machine builds a 3-D model layer by layer, Simandl said.

According to, the Web site of a company that produces prototypers, the machines use a powder-binding process to create 3-D pieces.

The whole process can take anywhere from a half hour to a day, depending on what is being made, said Verna Fitzsimmons, associate professor at the School of Technology.

This is Simandl’s first time using the prototyper.

“I feel like a trained pianist sitting down in front of a player piano. The machine does the work. I push the pedals,” Simandl said.

He said he will use the prototyper for making the intricate columns and entablature that frame the presidential box.

“If I did it the old way, I would need another semester to finish the entablature,” Simandl said.

The “old way” includes painstakingly sculpting an exact replica from clay, using the clay sculpture to create a latex mold and then casting a final plaster version from the mold, Simandl said.

Other departments have helped with Simandl’s project.

Bill Lucak, of College of Architecture and Environmental Design, said Joe Sisko, a student in the college, created a digital 3-D image of the cornice bracket and the entablature above the presidential box.

Technology major Jonathan Frato produced computer drawings of the bases and shafts of columns in the theater’s design.

“This project is a great collaboration between the School of Technology and the School of Architecture,” Fitzsimmons said.

Contact academic technology reporter Jessica Dreschel at [email protected].