President’s Park Busts

David Adickes, born during Calvin Coolidge’s presidency, is a sculptor and painter from Texas who was inspired by Mount Rushmore to create huge busts of the then forty-two presidents. He said he was driving through South Dakota, returning from a visit to Canada and saw Mount Rushmore for the first time. As impressive as he found it, he wished he could stand right in front of them and “see the look in their eyes”. He decided to make “Texas sized” busts of the presidents. He found a buyer for the project and began work in the busts in 1996. They took only five years to complete.

President’s Park, Williamsburg, VA (Credit: Bill Tiernan – The Virginian Pilot
The York County, Virginia zoning officials fought the arrival of the busts. They thought the busts were tacky and didn’t have the right permitting, but Everette H. Newman III, an ambitious entrepreneur, fought for the zoning rights and the ten acres (which he bought from Walmart) to place these busts in the park. It took three years, but eventually he won. In 2004, the park opened in Williamsburg, Virginia. The forty-two busts (one was added a few years later), each about twenty feet tall, were transported from their “birthplace” in Houston to their home in President’s Park.

President’s Park before it closed in 2010 (Crdit: A. Currell/Flickr)
But, the park failed to draw visitors, and in 2010 the ten million dollar project went into foreclosure. The land was sold and the busts had to go. A concrete recycler named Howard Hankins was tasked with busting up the presidents and taking them away. He didn’t want to break them up, because he found them so moving.

All forty-three Presidents in a Field on Hankins’ Farm (Credit: Pablo Inglesias Maurer)
So, he did what anyone would do: he moved all forty-three busts to a field on his four hundred acre farm. He had to break a hole in each of their heads to hook onto the metal framework inside to transport them on trucks to his farm. He hopes to eventually open a new “President’s Park” that will attract enough visitors and be more museum than park.

Presidential Busts on Hankins’ Farm (Credit: Pablo Englesias Maurer)
But, until that happens, these busts (appraised at a worth of $100,000 each) sit and age. It is not open to the public, but Howard Hankins is not opposed to interested visitors.
That’s it, except to say that this was one of two “President’s Parks” that Adickes made sculptures for. The other is in the Black Hills of South Dakota and is also closed. So long, until next week.

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