South Bend man builds life-sized birdhouses for display on his lawn

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - In a 16 News Now original story, a South Bend man is using his imagination to build some impressive work.

Right along State Road 23 in South Bend is a compound of sorts. It's not for humans but for birds.

Dozens of tiny houses fill the lawn, and they're all built by one man.

"Hi, I'm Larry Szymanski. I'm a retired South Bend School Corporation teacher, and in my spare time, I like to build birdhouses," Szymanski told 16 News Now's Kim Shine.

For more than five decades, his hands have built what his mind has imagined, and now Szymanski is taking his designs to the next level.

"This is the Empire State Building. And it has nine silos in it, including King Kong on top. The next is the Vietnam Memorial and Howard Park," he explained.

From wood to sheet metal to aluminum, he buys what he needs to create. Szymanski said it takes him about two to three weeks to build the larger birdhouses. The ones on his lawn took roughly six months.

He's inspired by the world around him.

"This one is called Turning Tower. There's a building in Sweden called the Turning Tower. It's in Malmo," he explained.

But the well-traveled 71-year-old was first motivated by his parents, Burt and Sally. They grew up on South Bend's west side and married after World War II.

"They bought this property in 1951. The first acre, my dad then painted the owner's house of the properties. And with that labor, he was able to purchase the second acre," he said.

Over the years, that second acre has been everything from a baseball diamond to a garden. After his parents passed away, Szymanski had a new idea and plenty of birdhouses to make it happen.

"I wouldn't say it's called a bird sanctuary. But it's just a place where I'm putting up something I enjoy doing," he explained.

And perhaps that's the real secret to Szymanski and his creations. He's unafraid to imagine, take an idea and turn it into reality.

"They're all unique, and I hopefully can build more of them and keep challenging myself," he said of all his birdhouses. "The more active you can be, the better health you're going to get. And the better your mind will work for many years to come."

Szymanski said he has 50 designs and counting. He hopes to put up his current big birdhouses in the spring.

He's not interested in selling them but may take requests if the person gives a donation of his choice amount to public television.