Miniatures are a major hobby

January 31, 2006|by JANET HEIM

Editor's note: There are a lot of people you see around town that you recognize, but don't know anything about. People like ...

Name: Jesse Shoemaker Jr.

Age: 66

Hometown: Indian Springs

Where would you see Shoemaker? It started in 1993 when Shoemaker was searching for a hobby. A stack of cedar boards he purchased decades ago still awaited some attention, so he thought he'd try building birdhouses.

The birdhouses were beautiful, but Shoemaker decided they were too good for the birds. He started building miniature log cabins, instead, relying on a band saw and table saw for cutting the wood.


The buildings have removable roofs and most have some period furnishings that Shoemaker made. The shutters have hinges that allow them to be opened and closed, the waterwheel on the mill turns and the porches sport rocking chairs.

Some of his miniatures are inspired by old buildings he sees, including some at Bedford Village, a historic settlement in Pennsylvania, and cabins he's seen in the Smoky Mountains.

Over the years, he has continued to hone his craft, adding mortar to the logs. Shoemaker first used mortar from sample bricks at Redland Brick, where he worked for 43 years. Then he came up with his own mixture of sand and glue for the cedar and stone structures.

Log cabins provided the starting point and evolved into barns, a schoolhouse and church, Shoemaker said. A covered bridge Shoemaker saw in a picture is a new addition to his collection, which has been on display at the Leonard P. Snyder Memorial Library in Clear Spring since the beginning of January.

Shoemaker received blue ribbons the five years he entered his structures in the Clear Spring Community Show, and was awarded two blue ribbons and a second place ribbon at the Washington County Ag Expo.

"I think they turned out pretty good," Shoemaker said.

He has donated his miniature buildings to the library in Clear Spring, and to the local fire companies and Clear Spring Little League, who raised money by selling chances to win them. Shoemaker also makes wood cutouts of cartoon characters.

A native of Indian Springs, Shoemaker was a member of the Clear Spring High School class of 1957. Although he didn't graduate, he is included in class reunions and donates his miniatures to them, as well. He has plans to make one for Plum Grove in Clear Spring, where he volunteers, and for the Rural Heritage Museum.

Shoemaker estimates that it takes 22 hours to complete a small log cabin. He doesn't sell them, preferring to give them as gifts.

"People don't want to pay for the time you put into them," Shoemaker said.

Hobbies: Shoemaker's main interest is woodworking. He tends a "wee little garden" and said he used to enjoy fishing and hunting, but doesn't do either anymore. In his travels, Shoemaker said he's been to 38 or 39 states, many as a truck driver for Redland Brick. He and his girlfriend, Anna Moats, drove to California three years ago with the goal of seeing the big Redwood trees and also enjoyed visiting Mt. Rushmore.

What does Shoemaker like best about Washington County? "I don't think you can find a better place to live. You don't have to worry too much about storms," he said.

Shoemaker did add that even in Indian Springs, there are houses being built around him.

If you know anyone in the community who might make an interesting Our Town feature, contact Janet Heim at 301-733-5131, ext. 2024, or send e-mail to

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