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Giant Presidential Heads

The sad fate of some giant Presidential heads

It is to weep.

It is a peculiar sight – Ronald Reagan has a large mark on his damaged face, George Washington is missing a piece of his nose, William Taft has a stain trailing from his eye to cheek, Millard Fillmore has a bee’s nest inside of his nose and Abraham Lincoln has a gigantic hole in the back of his head, eerily evoking his unfortunate fate.

This is just some of the damage on a few of the 43, 20ft-tall busts of former U.S. presidents that sit shoulder-to-shoulder in the most unlikely of places – a field on a farm in rural Croaker, Virginia.

It may only be two hours away from Washington DC, but it’s a world away from the nation’s capital.

Titled the Presidents’ Heads by creator David Adickes, the larger-than-life sculptures have become an eerie sight on businessman Howard Hankins property in Croaker.

The derelict statues that weigh up to 20,000 lbs each were once part of the now-failed Presidents’ Park in Williamsburg, Virginia.

The park was a collaboration between Adickes and landowner Everette ‘Haley’ Newman. They pair opened it in 2004 with hopes that it would attract thousands of visitors yearly after they invested $10million of their own money for it.

[…]

But it did not attract the hordes of visitors they wished for partly due to its poor location behind a motel off I-64 and being located far from Colonial Williamsburg.

The Presidents’ Park shut down in 2010 with the land being sold off. Newman enlisted the help of Hankins to have the statues, worth an estimated $6.5 million in total according to Adickes, demolished.

‘When they asked me to get rid of them, I immediately starting thinking of how I could move them without destroying them,’ Hankins, who had helped to construct the Presidents Park, told Richmond.com.

Instead of demolishing them, Hankins paid $50,000 to move the busts to his 400-acre pastoral farm in Croaker for safe-keeping once he figured out what to do with them.

In 2016, Hankins came up with the idea to create his own Presidential Historic Park featuring the busts along with other attractions.

We’ve heard about this before, and it’s still sad. Long story with lots of pictures somewhat shorter, the Hankins plan didn’t work out, and the fabled Giant Presidential Heads have fallen into disrepair. The pictures are actually kind of disturbing, and more than a little sad for a dedicated fanboy like me. Demolishing them would have been a kinder fate. I suppose they could still have use as props in a dystopian future TV show or movie – I bet the Walking Dead folks could work them in – but really, they deserved better. At least there are some others that are still out there, doing their thing in a more dignified fashion.

Tough times for Presidential heads

This makes me sad.

As polarized politics continue to rage in the Beltway, rural Virginia still has a place where Democrats, Republicans — and some Whigs — stand shoulder to shoulder.

The busts of the first 43 U.S. presidents, each standing at least 15 feet tall and weighing nearly 10 tons, are huddled on the property of Howard Hankins, a local developer who saved them from destruction.

“They all listen to me,” Hankins said of the past commanders-in-chief.

The concrete busts are the remnants of the now-defunct Presidents Park in Williamsburg, Virginia. The 10-acre, $10 million open-air museum, citing a lack of interest from visitors, closed in 2010.

When the park opened in 2004, it was apparently too hidden from passersby, partially obscured by a Days Inn hotel. It appeared the park’s designers failed to consider a vital real estate mantra: location, location, location.

Seeing value in the presidential busts, Hankins said he stepped in and paid about $50,000 to move them to his property 10 miles away.

“The eyes look like they’re staring at you, just gazing at you. It’s incredible how big they are and lifelike,” he said.

First, Hankins had to crack the back of the presidents’ hollow heads to attach a chain that linked the steel frames inside to a crane. Then, each bust was jostled loose from their spot in the park.

Originally, the busts were assembled from two pieces, welded at the middle of their necks. This meant many of the busts suffered neck breaks during the move, as the head started to separate from the shoulders.

Abraham Lincoln’s head suffered the worst damage. The chain attached to it snapped, Hankins said, and even though tires were laid out to cushion any impact, Lincoln was dropped on the back of his head.

The hole in Lincoln’s head is not meant as an allusion.

In all, Hankins said moving the busts to his 600-acre farm required several days of work.

Now, all 43 presidential busts reside on Hankin’s property in various states of ruin. The once-pristine, white paint coatings have lost out to the elements, cracked and ripped off from wind, sun exposure and rain.

For those of us who are fans of David Adickes’ work, as you know I am, the pictures in that story are especially heartbreaking. As noted, these busts were shipped out to Williamsburg back in 2004, with a second set going to a Presidential park near Mount Rushmore and a third set heading to Pearland. Far as I know, those two sets are doing all right, though maybe we ought to do a wellness check on them. The good news here is that the Virginia heads ought to be fixable, and the guy who bought them cares for them and is trying to do right by them. Best of luck to you, Howard Hankins. Many thanks to Linkmeister for sending me this story.

Adickes documentary

I’d watch that.

Recently local video production company The Storyhive announced details of an upcoming documentary about Houston artist and sculptor David Adickes, the man behind many of the large-scale public art pieces dotting the Bayou City area.

The film, titled “Monumental,” will chronicle Adickes who at the age of 88 is still exercising his creative muscles daily. The film has been in production for three years now, according to the producers.

They shot footage with him in Huntsville at his old high school, which he turned into the Adickes Art Foundation Museum in 2012. They just recently spent a day with him at his house in the Montrose area as he created a mock-up for a statue of an astronaut for a project he’s currently an integral part of.

It could one day be the second-tallest statue in the United States, right behind the Statue of Liberty in New York City, if the project is completed as planned.

“He’s talking about his entire life in the film and the production will focus on his life in Houston after he returned from Europe mostly,” says The Storyhive’s Jena Moreno. The film only has a crew of three people.

Here’s the Facebook page for the project. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know I’m a big fan of Adickes’. The film is aiming for a 2016 release, and I intend to be at a screening. I’m so glad someone is doing this.

Pearland Presidential Head Park gets different development

What could have been, Pearland. What could have been.

What could have been

A 48-acre swath of land that once was envisioned as a park to showcase oversize busts of U.S. presidents has attracted a Chinese developer to Pearland.

Beijing-based Modern Green Development, an international company and one of the largest green building developers in China, hopes to build a large-scale mixed-use project on the site west of Texas 288 and south of Beltway 8.

The planned development would be its first in the United States and second in North America. The company has constructed 15 million square feet of mixed-use space around the world.

[…]

A similar mixed-use project was previously planned for that site around 2007, before the economic downturn stalled the idea and the property was taken over by a bank.

That project, to be called the Water Lights District, was to include a park to display 43 presidential busts by local artist David Adickes.

In Pearland, a suburb where farmland has rapidly given way to residential development in recent decades, the busts were meant to welcome visitors and give the area character.

Only six busts were installed in the Presidential Park & Gardens, and Barack Obama had yet to win election before the project stalled.

Adickes said the busts are now sitting in the yard near his studio in Houston. He said he did not know whether they would be utilized for the new plan.

“The set does exist and is waiting for a final home,” Adickes said. “Theoretically, they would do well there.”

See here, here, and here for the background, because OF COURSE I covered this obsessively. I’m sure this new project will be great and will be needed to deal with the demand of people wanting to live in Pearland. But seriously, you missed out on being the long-term home of the giant Presidential heads. That’s worth way more than any boring old residential development.

Mount Rush Hour Park

It’s actually called American Statesmanship Park, but either way it’s awesome.

Mount Rush Hour

Harris County on Tuesday accepted a donation of a small plot of land near the intersection of Interstates 10 and 45 where 18-foot concrete busts of Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston, Abraham Lincoln and George Washington sit.

Each bust by Houston artist David Adickes, 83, was valued at $100,00, plus $87,000 for the land. Precinct 2 parks superintendent Gilbert Smith said there are plans to name the plot American Statesmanship Park, after words inscribed on the base of the sculptures.

In addition to oversized presidents and dignitaries, Adickes also is known for the 67-foot-tall Sam Houston statue in Huntsville and the 36-foot-tall cellist at downtown’s Lyric Centre. A plaque on the site will identify him as the busts’ creator and Quinita and Christopher LaPorte as the donors.

“We’re going to work on some kind of a nicer signage for the front, something low that will look nice, and mow it on a regular basis and the pay the light bill to light it at night,” Smith said, adding that he’s been told the occasional coat of white paint and some intermittent power washing also will be needed.

There’s an aerial photo at the Chron link, and here’s a Google map if you want to get a closer look. You can get there easily via the Heights Bike Trail – head east to Houston Avenue, turn right towards downtown, then turn left (east) on Edwards Street, and you’ll see the statues as the road veers around towards Bingham. David Adickes is a national treasure, and we are so lucky to have him in our town.

The Adickes museum

Cool.

A Tribute To American Statesmanship

It’s been 70 years since David Adickes danced the jitterbug in the old Huntsville High School gym. Now, at age 85, he pauses at a flight of schoolhouse stairs, uncertain if his knees can stand the climb. Still, there’s a rare bond between Adickes – the Houston artist who has charmed and shocked with his giant concrete statues – and this 1931-vintage backwoods temple of learning.

Only four years ago, the long-vacant brick building with a leaky roof and cracked walls seemed destined for demolition. Then Adickes, looking for a suitable showcase for a lifetime of paintings and sculptures, learned of its plight and made an offer.

Later this month, he will host a private reception to open the refurbished, 80,000-square-foot school as a gallery for more than 300 paintings and undetermined number of statues. Initially, the site will be open to curators hunting works for museum exhibits. Eventually, the Huntsville native hopes to open the school as a museum of his work.

“If not now, when?, to quote Jack Kennedy,” Adickes said. “I’ve always wanted to do this. … I think every artist is concerned about what’s going to happen to his work when he’s gone. Permanence always has had a great value to me.”

As you well know, I love me some Adickes artwork. Looks like I’ll need to plan a road trip at some point.

Studemont Kroger update

The Heights Life brings news about the proposed Kroger at Studemont and I-10. Of particular interest is this bit:

The property on which Kroger plans to build lies on the east side of Studemont north of Arne’s. The store will be at the south end of the property, facing the main customer parking lot to the north of the store. A fuel center will be placed at the north end of the property together with a small, secondary parking lot needed to fulfill code requirements.

Delivery docks will be located on the east and west faces of an extension on the south side of the store. The three main delivery dock doors will face east toward an industrial area. A small dock door will face west toward Studemont.

Hicks will be cut through to meet Summer Street on the east side of the property. The City’s intent is that this will become a through street, but there are some unspecified impediments. The portion of the block that is now Hicks will be improved to current City standards, and the whole block will be built like a City CIP project. Kroger will eventually dedicate that property to the City as street Right-of-Way in exchange for a smaller area of water/sewer ROW that the City will dedicate to Kroger. Access to the delivery docks will be from Hicks/Summer. An employee parking lot will occupy the portion of the lot south of Hicks/Summer next to Arne’s; Kroger expects that Arne’s will also use this lot at some point (possibly for its employees).

Couple things here. First, there may be “unspecified impediments” to extending Summer Street, but that doesn’t mean they are unknown. Behold, the view from where Summer dead ends heading eastbound at Oliver Street:

Presidential Heads Rear View

Yes, it’s the Giant Presidential Heads. And in what may be fortuitous timing or a harbinger of their doom, there’s this:

Now a source says that the [Alamo Drafthouse] plans to open a new central Houston location in the Sculpturworx compound. The 78,175-square-foot former studio of artist David Adickes (the man behind the giant president heads) was sold to Bartlett Lofts developers Phil Arnett and Chap Chapman in 2010, according to Swamplot, with plans for artists’ studios as well as significant commercial space.

That report may be a bit premature, but never mind that for now. Having an Alamo Drafthouse in there would greatly increase the need for and the value of a connected Summer Street. It also nearly guarantees a traffic light at the Studemont intersection, which I predicted in February. If nothing else, having Arne’s employees, and possibly its customers, park there will necessitate a stoplight, as the pedestrian crossing at I-10 isn’t really safe due to the right turn from the service road onto Studemont, which isn’t controlled by the light. Given what a mess that area can be during the evening rush hour, I’d hold out for a pedestrian crossing bridge as an alternative, but I don’t expect anyone to listen to me on that.

Anyway. As both Swamplot and Houston Politics note, the development is up for a 380 agreement this week. If that happens, and if the extension of Koehler Street to 2nd at the Heights Wal-Mart happens, you will be able to travel directly from one 380 agreement location to another, without using I-10 or Washington to get there. Just take 2nd to Harvard and turn on Hicks, then follow it along – see this Google map for the details. Note that Hicks passes over Studemont – it’s what on top of that underpass you pass under – and voila, there you are. Keep that in your back pocket for when you might need it.

Adickes studio sold

From Swamplot:

THE LAUNCHING pad for I-45’s Mount Rush Hour, that presidential muck circle in Pearland, and more outsize sculptureprojects has a buyer. David Adickes — creator of the giant Sam Houston of Huntsville and the disembodied cellist in front of the Lyric Center Downtown, and yes, the original owner and projectionist for sixties psychedelic Commerce St. hangout Love Street Light Circus — is selling his SculpturWorx compound off Sawyer St. to Phil Arnett and L.E. “Chap” Chapman. Arnett and Chapman are best known for turning an old staple manufacturing building down the street from the original Goode Co. Bar-B-Q on Kirby into the Bartlett Lofts. Their plan for Adickes’s 78,175 sq. ft. of warehouse space at 2500 Summer St.: keeping the “artist flavor” (and most of the tenants) of the old buildings, while renovating the property and using up to 22,000 sq. ft. of it (Adickes’s first-floor studio, for example) as commercial space — maybe including a restaurant or two.

As long as the giant Presidential heads remain and continue to be visible from Sawyer Street as you drive past, it’s all good.

Giant Presidential heads coming home

We in Houston welcome them with open arms, for however long we get to have them back.

Less than a month after foreclosure proceedings put the brakes on Pearland’s WaterLights District and Presidential Park & Gardens, the homeless presidents are heading out, a company official said.

From 9 a.m. to noon today, workers using cranes will load the remaining presidents aboard three 18-wheelers for the trip to the Heights in Houston. Making the roughly 12-mile trip will be George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Frankin D. Roosevelt, John Kennedy and George H. Bush.

A sculpture of President Barack Obama was displayed at the site for 24 hours, drawing 700 visitors, but was moved to Houston last year.

Until a new location for the presidential park is found, the statues will remain in the Heights at the studio of artist David Adickes, who designed and sculpted the presidential busts, said David Goswick, spokesman for Boardwalk at the Spectrum LP, the developer.

No rush, y’all. We’re happy to keep them for as long as you need us to.
See here for more. Thanks to Prime Property for the link.

Pearland Presidential heads in peril

Oh, noes!!

A struggling national economy and tight credit market have taken their toll on the proposed WaterLights District in Pearland, which announced Wednesday that Amegy Bank has posted the property for foreclosure.

Plans for the mixed-used project at Texas 288 just south of Beltway 8 included offices, restaurants and retail and residential components. But perhaps the most anticipated aspect of the development was the Presidential Park & Gardens which eventually was to have featured giant busts of all the U.S. presidents.

All that, however, came to a halt after negotiations with the bank fell through on refinancing the loan and working out the release of potential legal claims, said David Goswick, executive director of Boardwalk at the Spectrum LP, the project’s developers.

I just hope that if this project can’t be salvaged that the giant Presidential heads come back to Houston. They deserve a better fate than that. According to the Chron, however, they hope to keep them right there in Pearland.

Goswick said Boardwalk at the Spectrum remains committed to building the Presidential Park & Gardens.

“We will develop and create a Presidential Parks & Gardens somewhere,” he said. “We just don’t know where yet. It is our sincere hope that it’s in the city of Pearland.”

I for one will be happy to welcome them back to Houston if that hope falls through. Thanks to Swamplot for the tip.

Obama head on the move

Hello, Austin!

President Barack Obama’s concrete head rested peacefully on an open-bed trailer outside Vino Vino wine bar on Guadalupe Street on Sunday evening. The 20-foot-tall sculpture of the president had just been hauled from Houston.

Its creator, 82-year-old artist David Adickes, is traveling with the 3½-ton bust, and grinned as he looked at the head that was parked on the street.

“Most people just ogled it on the highway,” he said. “Only one guy gave us the finger.”

Man, I wish I could have seen that on the highway. How awesome would that have been?

Adickes said he started making the bust Nov. 5, the day after Election Day. The hardest part, he said, was creating Obama’s hair because it is closely cropped, which made it blend in too much with the rest of the sculpture. “I antiqued his hair by putting paint into the creases of it,” he said.

Adickes, who lives in Houston, said he began making busts of presidents’ heads in 1994 after visiting Mount Rushmore. He said he was bothered because people couldn’t get close to the sculptures on the mountain.

Visitors can get as close as they like to his busts at Presidents Park.

“They can talk to them and touch them,” he said.

Have I mentioned lately that I love stories about David Adickes and his giant presidential heads? Because I do. And here’s a Houston Press photo slideshow from Pearland if you, like me, just can’t get enough of this stuff.

A new Presidential head comes to Pearland

You all know I’m a big fan of David Adickes and his giant Presidential heads, which were moved to Pearland last year. Well, they are about to be joined by the latest model.

A 20-foot-tall bust of Barack Obama made of concrete and weighing 3.5 tons will be on display in Pearland this Friday off Texas 288 near the Waterlights District starting at about 2:30 p.m.

The sculpture is the latest in a series done by Texas artist David Adickes and will briefly join other president heads by Adickes that are permanently displayed on the site.

While an Obama bust is eventually planned for the site, this particular statue will be just passing through on its way to the Presidents Park near Deadwood, S.D., where it will arrive in time to join 42 other presidential busts for a July Fourth celebration.

Between Friday and July 4, the bust will visit 30 cities in eight states. In some cities, life-size busts of Obama will be auctioned to raise money for the homeless.

According to Peter Smetek, chairman and CEO of Larrea Biosciences, a sponsor of the tour, the statue will be in Pearland overnight if police protection can be secured.

Don’t worry if you miss it though. A launch party will be held in Houston at 2500 Summer Street on Saturday starting at about 4 p.m.

Awesome. I drove by Summer Street to try to get a picture of the new Obama bust yesterday, but it wasn’t in the yard with the others and the studio was all closed up, so no dice. Maybe I’ll get the next one.

By the way, I don’t know if you’re the type that finds the Chron comments in general to be hilarious or appalling, but whichever the case, the comments on that post are a pure distillation of the genre. It’s a fetid swamp of racism, paranoia, and blithering stupidity, the kind that makes you think you can feel IQ points dripping out of your ears as you read them. If you like that sort of thing, the comments on that post are definitely the sort of thing that you’ll like. Enjoy, if you dare.