Handmade Banff Springs Hotel model finds new home at Calgary International Airport

WATCH: The thousands of tourists arriving for the Calgary Stampede have a cool new attraction to check out when they land at the airport. Meanwhile, the man who created it now has a brand new look to his garage. Gil Tucker has the story.

It’s a labour of love that’s taken up half of a garage for four decades, but now, Frank Kaufman has found a new home for his elaborate model of the Banff Springs Hotel.

Kaufman has sold it to the Calgary International Airport, which is putting it on display on the arrivals level.

“I’m glad it’s going to a place where everybody that comes to Calgary can appreciate it,” Kaufman said.

He began working on his painstakingly detailed replica of the Canadian landmark in 1974, taking three years to finish it.

“It got bigger and bigger and bigger,” Kaufman said. “Everything was made by hand.”


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It was part of Kaufman’s dream of creating a miniature village for visitors, to feature dozens of small buildings he’d made, including a clay replica of Calgary’s old city hall.

“I said, ‘Calgary needs a new tourist attraction,’” Kaufman explained.

Working as a chef in some of the city’s top kitchens, Kaufman honed skills over the years that came in handy as he fashioned his mini buildings.

“As a chef, we did ice sculpture and fat sculpture,” Kaufman said.

He used mostly wood on the Banff Springs replica, finishing it with sand he brought back from a beach in Holland.

“My original cost was $500,” Kaufman said. “And that did not include the plane fare to Holland to collect the sand in a small little pail.”


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Unfortunately, his dream of a miniature village never became a reality, so Kaufman put it up for sale.

“I tried the Banff Springs Hotel twice and they were not interested,” Kaufman said.

His wife Ursula is also happy that the model will be on display at the airport.

“So when come to the airport and see it, they say, ‘Oh look,'” she said.

Airport officials are also glad to be able to add something new to the arrivals area.

“We love Mr. Kaufman’s passion for displaying the best of our province,” the Calgary Airport Authority’s Michael Hayward said. “And we think this miniature version of the Banff Springs Hotel will allow our guests to enjoy the region’s legendary attracts without leaving the terminal.”

Kaufman is a bit sad to be parting with it, but Ursula sees a bright side.

“I lost all the space in the garage for my car and I’ve had to deal with that for 40 years,” she said. “It was hard , but I’m proud of my husband.”

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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