Hollis man crafts model of newly renovated Town Hall

HOLLIS – Geoffrey James has been building things since he was a young boy, and to celebrate the recent renovations to Hollis Town Hall, he has fashioned a model of the building out of anchor blocks, a Victorian-era toy.

“I was always into Lincoln Logs and building things,” he said of his childhood. “We’d go out to a restaurant and I’d have everything stacked up. I made silverware towers.”

James, a professional writer, grew up in Los Angeles and moved to Hollis 25 years ago for a change of pace. He’s glad to be in an area rich in history.

“I have an appreciation for architecture and Victorian designers,” he said. “I’ve been fascinated by (Town Hall) since the day I moved in. I wanted to build it but never had enough blocks, so I bought more.”

James used Steinbaukasten Anchor Blocks, which are made of compressed sand bound with linseed oil, giving them a clean, realistic stone appearance. They are smooth, with no grooves or connections like Legos. He first saw them at the Museum of Science in Boston.

“They are stone blocks and have a heavy gravity, so you can build complex models like castles,” he said. “It requires a steady hand because there are no attachments. There are different shapes, and some are wooden, like rafters.”

James said this is the first major project he has built from his own design. He used photographs and went by in person, and had to take his model apart and rebuild it four times before getting it right.

“It’s a very complicated building,” he explained. “I had to be very precise in the foundation and how to lay the roof line. A small problem in the beginning becomes big later on. The first time the tower was too high and the dimensions were not quite right.”

James has been a freelance writer since 1994. He has taken two blogs from a dead start to more than one million page views. He currently writes “Sales Source” for Inc.com, the world’s most-read sales-oriented blog. His new book, “Business Without the Bullsh*t,” will be published by Business Plus in May.

He is also the author of “Dr. John Dee,” a work of historical fiction about the court magician of Queen Elizabeth I. He recounted how he wrote the first lines of the novel in 1974 while he was in college, and spent nearly 30 years researching, traveling to locations in Europe, going through 10 drafts, three editors and three agents before the novel was finally published.

“You can learn a lot more about people by studying history than a business book,” he said. “I read a lot of history. It helps me understand the way people think and gives me another perspective to stand outside that world. The most valuable writing class I ever took was Latin – how words and sentences are constructed. People try to pigeonhole writers and people in general, but I am a polyman and can do many things.”

Building with blocks and with words, a true craftsman indeed.