43 Giant Presidential Heads Are Stuck in a Field in Virginia
Tucked away in an unassuming field in the town of Croaker, Virginia, sits perhaps the greatest presidential monument you’ve never heard of. That’s because this private farm is home to 43 presidential busts that were originally crafted to be the centerpiece of Presidents Park, an open-air museum in Williamsburg, Virginia that would rival anything found in Washington D.C. Today, though, they sit as crumbling colossi waiting for a new home.
The park was originally conceived by Houston artist David Adickes, who was struck by the idea after visiting Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. He teamed with investor Everette “Haley” Newman to turn this idea into a lasting monument for these larger-than-life politicians. When it opened in 2004, Presidents Park featured a sculpture garden with every Commander in Chief from George Washington to George W. Bush, all meticulously crafted by Adickes and his team of sculptors. The busts ranged from 18 to 20 feet tall and weighed in at around 22,000 pounds.
Unfortunately, the $10 million experiment that was Virginia’s Presidents Park wasn’t long for this world; it was shut down in 2010 due to lack of visitors. Though it was located in Williamsburg, Virginia, it wasn’t near the tourist-friendly colonial section. Instead it was located adjacent to a highway, obscured by woods and a motel, which left these 20-foot presidential heads as nothing more than an obscure curiosity. Money got so tight toward the end that they couldn’t afford the $60,000 to add a bust of Barack Obama to the roster.
After the park was shut down and the land auctioned off, Howard Hankins, who helped build the park, had the heads moved to his family’s farm in Croaker—even though Newman originally just wanted to destroy them. It took nearly a week to move all 43 busts to their new location, and due to their immense size and weight, the move didn’t exactly go smoothly. Cracked heads and damaged noses were just some of the maladies suffered during the $50,000 relocation. The most notable damage was inflicted upon Abraham Lincoln, who now sports a not-too-subtle gaping hole in the back of his head. That’s in addition to the dilapidated state the busts were in before the move, including a lightning strike that claimed half of Ronald Reagan’s face and severe weathering from years of neglect.
Though they’ve been at their new home since 2012, there are still no specific plans for the heads. Weather and nature have now taken a considerable toll on the busts—some frogs apparently call James Buchanan "home" now—and a GoFundMe campaign by the Hankins family to repair the statues and move them to a new museum has earned a paltry $841 of its $500,000 goal in 12 months.
Still, Hankins is keeping his dream of a new museum alive, telling PBS, “It’s amazing, the history of it all, I want to preserve all I can and share it.” Until Hankins can find a permanent home for these statues, tourists looking for an obscure site to see should know that there are 240 years of American history peeling and cracking in a field in Croaker, Virginia.