By George Hunter
Published: Friday, April 19th, 1996
When carpenter Lawrence Zechmeister was hired to repair a
job 14 years ago, he had no idea that he was about to embark on a new career.
Local land developer Maury Cohen commissioned Zechmeister to repair an antique cupola room that had sat atop the horse stable at Cohen's home for more than a century. The room had practically fallen apart, Zechmeister recalled, so he had to rebuild it from scratch. Zechmeister and Cohen drew up the plans on a napkin.
By the time Zechmeister finished the job, he said, he'd found his calling. He's been building miniature cupolas for Metro Detroit homeowners ever since.
"Miniature cupolas is my concept. It's something I kind of made up," said Zechmeister, owner of Zack's Workshoppe in St. Clair Shores. "As far as I know, no one else makes them."
Zechmeister said he was apprehensive when he first started.
"Since this was a brand-new concept, I had no way of knowing whether there was a market for it," he said. "Things were slow at first, but I kept plugging away. I knew that if people saw my cupolas, they would like them. And that turned out to be the case, luckily.
"There's something about cupolas that takes me back to the Greenfield Village era. They're historic, and I like being able to bring a little of that era to people's homes.
The cupola's origin can be traced to Victorian England where seaside homes often had eight-sided "cupola rooms" that looked out over the ocean. On the outside of the rooms was a ledge called the "widow's walk," named for the sailor's wives who would pace the ledges as they awaited the return of their seafaring husbands.
The English brought the style with them when they came to America, and cupola rooms adorn many homes along the Eastern Seaboard.
All the wood comes from trees grown in northern Michigan, Zechmeister said, and each cupola is designed differently.
I think it's important that each customer have something that's totally unique," he said.
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