Presidents ParkDavid Adickes (relocated by Howard Hankins)
About the Artist/Site
Texas sculptor David Adickes, who had been inspired by viewing the Presidential heads at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, had the idea to open a park devoted to all the US presidents. He found a willing collaborator with Virginia landowner Everette “Haley” Newman, who dropped roughly $10 million to realize this dream. The open-air park-like museum opened in 2004 in Williamsburg, Virginia, with Adickes’s 42 monumental busts of all presidents through George W. Bush (as Grover Cleveland was elected for two nonconsecutive terms, he was both the 22nd and 24th President). But the location was not ideal, as it was somewhat far from Williamsburg’s main tourist draws and hidden behind a motel, so the venture went into foreclosure in 2010 due to lack of visitors, even before the $60,000 to create President Obama’s bust was able to be raised.
Howard Hankins, a local businessman who runs a concrete recycling operation, had helped to build the park, and was also asked to help prepare the property for sale. Newman asked him to destroy the heads before the land auction, but Hankins couldn’t bear to do so. Instead, he decided to move them all to his 400-acre farm in nearby Croaker. The process of moving the monumental reinforced concrete heads was complex and difficult, and as art movers were not employed, the workers approached their job as best they could, improvising as they went. As the crane lifted the sculptures – grabbing each head by an interior steel frame that they accessed by smashing a hole in the top of each one, the necks of each were also broken in order to dislodge them from the ground, as the sculptures hadn’t been constructed with the thought that they would later be moved. Although the distance between the two sites was only ten miles, as each bust weighs between 11,000 and 20,000 pounds and is 18 to 20 feet tall, the logistics were considerable and significant structural as well as surface damage was sustained during the move. The movers got better at their job as they worked, with the earliest works to be moved suffering the most damage.
Once the weeklong move of the sculptures by flatbed truck was completed, costing around $50,000, the heads were lined up in three rows (with George Washington set slightly apart), sited rather randomly on Hankins’s property, placement that created some rather curious neighborly juxtapositions. Without conservation, each continues to disintegrate due to the exposure of the steel infrastructure to the elements, causing further cracks in the concrete shells and stains on the surfaces. Bad luck seems to have also played a role – Ronald Reagan, for example, was hit by lightning and still wears the scar. Many have lost all or part of their noses and most are also marked by bird droppings.
The President’s Park is not currently open, although Hankins says he is negotiating with the local government and Colonial Williamsburg Park to refurbish and reopen it, along with a visitor’s center, as originally envisioned by Newman and Adickes. He also hopes that any future display will be more interactive, with live historic performances and visitors able to push a button to hear the presidents speak. In the meantime, without a license to operate a tourist attraction – nor the estimated $8,000 - $10,000 required for conservation of each sculpture, the busts remain in place, sinking into the swampy ground and crumbling with time and weather. A GoFundMe campaign has raised less than $1000 needed of the $500,000 goal since the campaign started 13 months ago, as of this writing.
~Jo Farb Hernández
Map & Site Information
Williamsburg, Virginia, 23188 us
Latitude/Longitude: 37.3963555 / -76.753297
Relocated (incl. Museums)
Croaker Road, Williamsburg, Virginia, 23188, United States
originally opened in 2004
The President’s Park is not currently open. It was relocated by Howard Hankins to Croaker, VA from Williamsburg, VA.
Newport News , VA
Garysburg, North Carolina
Suitland-Silver Hill, Maryland
Washington, District of Columbia
Washington, District of Columbia