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Small buildings, big inspiration

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) - Tom Buelow admits he never thought it would go this far. But inside his home, a model of downtown Fort Wayne takes up an entire room.

"I've got the Lincoln Tower, Don Hall's Gas House, the Old Fort Wayne fort, Martin Luther King Bridge. I'm running out of room!," exclaimed Buelow.

Tom Buelow

Laid out like a model railroad display is his vision of the city. Some of the buildings, like the Old Wolf and Dessauer stores, don't exist as they once did. But he remembers what they looked like.

Astute observers will notice the Taco Bell restaurant on Jefferson Boulevard, the Embassy Theater with a sparkling marquee, even Powers Hamburgers. The Lincoln Tower stands vigil above it all.

"I was amazed because I didn’t realize that there’s a hundred windows per side to that thing. There’s 400 windows I had to cut out," said Buelow.

Mr. Buelow's eye for detail is sharp as a tack. He uses photographs and observations of the real buildings to inform his construction of the models. He uses sheets of polystyrene to build the bulk of the structures, with wood and resin to add detail.

What began as a handful of buildings in a Christmas display, became an interpretation of the city on a grand scale. But Buelow doesn't simply engage in the meticulous work to stave off boredom. He feels inspired by his late wife Diane.

"We originally had our Christmas village up. But I knew she didn't have until January to live," explained Buelow. His emotions still raw from her ordeal with ALS.

Buelow's late wife, Diane

Buelow went into overdrive, building more. A measure, a cut, a stripe of paint. Before long, Fort Wayne was beginning to take shape.

"She told me don't stop. Keep going. If you can build anything, build it," said Buelow.

Diane died soon after. And as Buelow adjusted to his new way of life, he got work. He shows no interest in stopping now.

"I'd like to make Promenade Park," he chuckled. "It's such a nice park."

Editors Note:

Diane was Mr. Buelow's second wife. His first wife, Kathy, died in 2007 after a long illness. Mr. Buelow honors both women with pictures on his wall, and the building project growing steadily in his home.

Family photos including Tom's first wife, Kathy

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Brien McElhatten

Brien McElhatten anchors the evening weekday newscasts at ABC21. He also hosts and produces the ABC21 Daily podcast.

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