Brooklyn man has city in his apartment
Once you’ve built a scale model of a Manhattan landscape with seven skyscrapers, streetscapes and trains inside your Brooklyn apartment, what could possibly come next?
Beacon, of course! When model-maker Frank Heynick ran out of room for his 6-foot-high “Mini-Gotham” (mini-gotham.com), he turned to a lower-rise “Mini-Beacon.” The model depicts the East End bend on Main Street, including the Matteawan Station, which was built in 1876 and saw its last passenger train in 1933.
With the assistance of the Beacon Historical Society, Heynick gathered postcards, photos and other source material on the section of town containing the Matteawan Station and the shopfronts and buildings across from it — a resonant, picturesque, architecturally rich stretch of Main.
He made several trips to Beacon to sketch details and mark off 1-foot lengths to get the dimensions. Back home, he used Google Maps for present-day images. He constructed Matteawan Station largely from balsa wood.
The Beacon Historical Society had hoped to exhibit the model but the logistics of moving, protecting and finding space to display it were daunting, said Diane Lapis, the society president.
Heynick, an author and linguistics scholar, says he has loved modeling since he was a child growing up in Brooklyn. “I had Lionel trains on ‘O’ scale, the largest,” at a 1:48 ratio, he recalls. “At Brooklyn Technical High School, I studied industrial design, including some architecture.”
After moving to the Netherlands to pursue a doctorate at the University of Groningen on dream research, Heynick found he needed a diversion. That’s when he began to diagram and build “Mini-Europe” in the much smaller “N” scale, or 1:160. It included the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland and “it took years. It developed organically and, when I moved to a larger apartment, it grew, too.”
Back in Brooklyn, he switched back to the “O” scale and began to build “Mini-Gotham” in his new apartment. It takes up most of his living room, although he reduced the number of floors in the skyscrapers due to the height of his ceilings. The model contains 30 structures spanning the 1920s to the 1950s, with emphasis on art deco and moderne styles.
Everything is made from scratch. After making calculations, Heynick cut sheets of Plexiglas and sprayed acrylic coating on everything but the windows. From there, he added “trim, bits of wood, things like that.”
The project is ongoing, but with only a small area of his apartment open for expansion, Heynick said he decided to create a “rural” setting. He chose Beacon because he is familiar with the city.
“When I was a kid, quite a while ago, my father and his good friend in the garment industry had a cabin near Wiccopee,” he recalls. “We often spent weekends there. I recall going up Mount Beacon when the cable car was working. With my affection for Beacon, it was the logical thing to do.”
That project remains unfinished, as well, which Heynick says is of little concern because “the whole thing is never finished.” With the Beacon model, “it’s mainly the scenery missing. You can see where the mountains and the stream are, but they’re not done. But, there’s no urgency, I’ll get to it.”
Time isn’t the issue as much as space. “If I won the lottery, the first thing I’d want is to rent a bigger apartment,” he says.
For now, Heynick is also busy translating a novel he wrote into German. “There are many dreams in the novel, and one involves Beacon,” he says. “I’m sure I’ve dreamt about Beacon.”