When Jerry Larson moved into the Manor at Canyon Lakes in Kennewick last month, he brought half of Kennewick's main street with him.
Larson, 88, managed to fit a half-dozen storefronts, circa the 19th century, onto a shelf 7 feet long, but only because the entire scene is 1/30th scale.
The grandson of Norwegian immigrants, Larson has called the Tri-Cities his home since 1944, a year after he followed his parents' migration west from Iowa.
He learned his construction skills on the job as a carpenter and later as a hardwood floor installer.
So it was an easy transition to start building again after he retired from owning the Parkade Tavern in Kennewick and another one in Quincy.
His creations represent rustic architecture, reminiscent of the Old West, as ranch houses, barns, outhouses, saloons, livery stables and country churches. He also fancies windmills, and has turned out a few Ferris wheels and playgrounds.
"I do these off the top of my head. No plans, no nothing," said Larson, who recently took up residence in an apartment at the Manor.
The Kennewick street scene, which Larson has labeled an 1885 tableau, has everything Marshal Matt Dillon's Dodge City had, lacking only the gunsmoke from a gunfight held in front of the saloon.
Every stick of wood, from the shingles and door frames down to the fence posts, rails and boardwalks, was sawed out of cedar, redwood or mahogany and precisely assembled to be as realistic as possible.
Larson doesn't use hobby hand saws or razor blades. He would rather run the "lumber" through a real circular saw to get the wood to the proper miniature sizes he uses. That required getting his fingers in close to the whirling cutting blade -- sometimes too close.
"See this," he said, holding up three fingers of one hand. "I've lost all the feeling, they've been cut so many times. (The doctor) did a real good job sewing them back up, they were torn up pretty bad," he said.
The loss of touch is bad enough, but Larson also is losing his sight, bit by bit, through macular degeneration.
The last thing he made was a country church, which he completed in August. Larson constructed the tiny hand-built model after the historic old Methodist church in Bodie, Calif., which now is a state historic park in the high desert about 350 miles north of Los Angeles, near the border with Nevada.
The Kennewick street scene took about four months to complete with its seven buildings, plus a windmill. It consists of a two-story hotel, a barbershop and bath house, the sheriff's office, a mercantile and dry goods store, Jerry's Saloon, a blacksmith shop and livery stable.
Linda Beagles, community relations at Manor at Canyon Lakes, said she saw it while visiting Larson at his prior residence. She was impressed enough to suggest it be put on display at the East Benton County Museum in Kennewick.
Corene Hulse, museum administrator, said the street scene will be a good addition to the museum, which is at the east end of Keewaydin Park.
"It is wonderful we are getting it," she said, noting that Kennewick was not much of a place in the 1880s. The city wasn't incorporated until the turn of the century.
-- John Trumbo: 582-1529; firstname.lastname@example.org