The Abandoned Giant Busts of Presidents Park

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The iconic heads of four US Presidents sculpted on the granite face of Mount Rushmore, in the Black Hills in South Dakota, has marveled millions of visitors and inspired countless artists. Houston-based sculptor David Adickes first went to visit Mount Rushmore in the early nineties. The sight bedazzled him, but also disappointed him because the heads were high up and inaccessible. So Adickes decided to build something where visitors can get up close and personal with the heads of the presidents. Emboldened by his recent success at Huntsville, Texas, where he created a gargantuan statue of Sam Houston in 2003, Adickes set about creating his own “Presidents Park” just 40 miles away from Mount Rushmore in the town of Lead.

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Photo credit: Pablo Iglesias Maurer/DCist

Adickes used polystyrene and plaster to create moulds in his studio in Texas. White Portland cement was then poured into the moulds to create 43 heads of as many presidents. The busts are 16 to 20 feet tall, and although the heads are hollow, each weighs about 18 tons. The heads were then transported from his studio in Houston to Lead, where they were installed in the woods along a winding path through tall pine trees.

The same year, Adickes opened a second Presidents Park in Williamsburg, Virginia, and a third in his hometown Houston, the following year. Had his endeavor been successful, Adickes would probably have created many more parks, thanks to the giant moulds in his studio which gave him infinite replication capabilities. Unfortunately, poor public response and the inability to keep up with the financing caused all the three parks to close in 2010.

The large heads still lie abandoned behind closed gates, but some were carted off to grace RV Parks and lawns of hotels and inns. From Wikipedia:

The busts of presidents John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush are located near Mount Rushmore in Hermosa, South Dakota at the Southern Hills RV Park and Campground. President Abraham Lincoln's bust graces the Lincoln RV Park on U.S. 85 south of Williston, North Dakota. Others, such as president Theodore Roosevelt's bust is stationed at the Roosevelt Inn in Watford, North Dakota.

All 43 busts at Williamsburg, Virginia, were moved to the family farm of Howard Hankins, the contractor who helped construct the park. Hankins was asked to destroy the busts before the land could be auctioned off. Unable to bring himself to the task, Hankins decided to carry the busts to his 400-acre farm in Croaker. They now lie in Hankins’ property. The relocation has damaged nearly all of the busts —broken noses, missing backsides and other structural issues.

Hankins is now working with a couple of local governments to find a good site to rebuild the museum. Hankins envisions a new park with a visitor center, a recreation of the Oval Office, and several new attraction including an Air Force One fuselage, Secret Service museum, First Lady memorabilia, Wounded Warriors room, and more.

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Photo credit: Pablo Iglesias Maurer/DCist

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Photo credit: Pablo Iglesias Maurer/DCist

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Photo credit: Pablo Iglesias Maurer/DCist

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The Presidents Park in Williamsburg, Virginia, before it was closed. Photo credit: A. Currell/Flickr

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The Presidents Park in Williamsburg, Virginia, before it was closed. Photo credit: A. Currell/Flickr

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Photo credit: abandonedearth/Instagram

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Photo credit: abandonedearth/Instagram

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Photo credit: abandonedearth/Instagram

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Photo credit: abandonedearth/Instagram

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Busts at the Presidents Park in Houston, Texas. Photo credit: luna715/Flickr

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Busts at the Presidents Park in Houston, Texas. Photo credit: luna715/Flickr

Sources: Smithsonian / Independent

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6 comments:

  1. This idea seems a bit ahead of its time.

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  2. It struck me as rather creepy.

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  3. Better than Mt.Rushmore!!

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  4. "...and although the heads are hollow, each weighs about 18 tons."
    Now they know how many heads it takes to fill Presidents Park.

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  5. I have been to the Presidents Park in VA. I live on the west coast and planning a trip to VA again this summer. It was very sad to learn this park closed. I really enjoyed taking my grandkids there. Lots of history learned in a day. Guess I will treasure my pictures taken in this park a few years ago.

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