menu search

See How This Virginia Man Single-Handedly Saved A National Treasure

When President’s Park opened near Colonial Williamsburg in 2004, it was a head turner, to say the least. Featuring massive, sculpted busts of the nation’s first 43 presidents, the park was a 10-acre outdoor museum, built on the vision of Houston-based artist David Adickes.

Adickes was inspired to create the larger-than-life “heads”-of-state after visiting Mount Rushmore in the  1990s. He originally hoped to place his sculptures in a Washington, D.C. location, but cost and interest limited his plans. Finally, Adickes found a savior in Williamsburg entrepreneur Everette “Haley” Newman, who, along with co-investors, staked more than $10 million on the project, purchasing land, commissioning the sculptures and getting the park up and running.

The sculptures began appearing in 2000, but the museum, named “President’s Park,” didn’t open until 2004. While initially a draw for locals and tourists alike, over time, the park could not sustain the necessary visitor traffic, partially due to location, but also because of the necessary upkeep needed to maintain the statues.  Unable to afford a bust of Obama, and suffering financially from ever-lessening crowds, the park was closed in September 2010 and the land was auctioned off.

Now the dilemma remained of what to do with the busts themselves. What exactly DOES one do with 43 presidents’ heads, each ranging from 15 to 20 feet in height and weighing as much as 22,000 pounds apiece? By 2012, it looked as though destroying the busts was the only answer – until Howard Hankins, a concrete recycler from nearby Croaker, Virginia, stepped in. Instead of destroying the busts as had been planned by the park’s owners, Hankins spent $50,000 moving the busts one-by-one to his family farm. Watch the following video to see the full story of how Hankins saved these national treasures and hear what he plans to do next.

Now, three years after rescuing our illustrious leaders from a less than glorious fate, Hankins continues to search for a permanent home for the busts. Zoning prevents him from turning the current location into a roadside attraction, and he has already had to go as far as to turn down a couple who wanted to get married next to Abraham Lincoln.

While unconfirmed reports claim that the busts have begun to be sold off to various collectors around the country, a report by the DCist in June 2015 states that Hankins has been looking at land in Williamsburg with the hopes of restoring the presidential masterpieces to their original glory and possibly adding some new attractions – an old Air Force One fuselage or possibly even an exhibit linked to the Spy Museum in Washington, D.C.

In the meantime, one can only assume that the busts lay in rest, making peaceful neighbors out of powerful men who may not have agreed with one another in life, but who, today, seem content to stand side-by-side as their final fate is determined.

Did you visit President’s Park while it was in existence? How would you feel about the return of the museum? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Anna Strock
Virginia staff writer for Only in Your State, freelance writer and journalist. Even though Anna has lived other places, somehow Virginia is where she always seems to land.