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story.lead_photo.caption Photo courtesy of Jill Werner The Bella Vista Historical Museum's Sunset Hotel model is undergoing some renovation. Historical society member Jill Werner is rebuilding the model's base.

The Sunset Hotel model at the Bella Vista Historical Museum is getting some updates -- but its old base isn't giving up without a fight.

The model, which was originally built in by Gene Heezen in 2001 to celebrate the Bella Vista Historical Society's 25th anniversary, is getting new landscape outside the building. Historical society member Jill Werner is redoing the grass and other details and scaling down the base -- with Heezen's blessing, of course.

Historical society president Xyta Lucas said that the model is one of the museum's most prominent pieces and an excellent tool to show off local history. While photos can provide an accurate look at the old hotel -- which was built by the Linebargers in 1929 and burned down in 1999 -- Lucas said the model gives people a three-dimensional view of the historical site.

The museum played a part in Bella Vista's history during the Linebarger, Keith and Cooper years and was even somewhat novel when new. It was uncommon in this part of the country, Lucas said, for a hotel to be built with communal bathrooms, though all 65 rooms in the Sunset Hotel had their own lavatory or, in the case of suites, shared theirs with the room next door.

"It's not only important to the museum from the history of it, it's important to people who are alive today," she said.

The building served as Village Hall when the Cooper family ran it, functioning as a meeting place for potential Bella Vista property buyers and salespeople. A lot of retirees can recall going there in the '60s, '70s and '80s, she said.

"It's a prominent piece of Bella Vista history," she said.

While the model itself is attractive, Werner said the hillside and land surrounding it could look better, and the base was excessively large for the size of the model. Because she has a background in artwork, Werner agreed to get to work trimming down the base and improving the grass and other earthwork -- though the materials holding it all together have proved surprisingly tough.

"It's a bit of work," she said. "The problem is the teardown, not the buildup."

The base was built on top of wood with a variety of materials, including Styrofoam, expanding foam, nails, carpet glue and AstroTurf, which form up into some kind of unbreakable Voltron of craft materials.

The real difficulty, she explained, is finding a way to cut through the thick bed of foam and stubborn carpet glue without disturbing the rest of the model. She's tried a wide array of different saws and there's no magic bullet -- it's just a slow process.

But once the base is trimmed down, Werner said she expects the project to go smoothly. She'll take the model into her studio and work to build up and paint the new base, she said.

Werner said the final product should be worth the hassle.

"If there's one thing that really needed improvement when you walk in the door, that's it," Werner said.

General News on 08/04/2018

Print Headline: Museum's Sunset Hotel model getting new base

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