HISTORY

Williamsburg President Park Museum July 19, 2007



We made a trip to Historic Williamsburg, VA and came upon a wonderful Presidents Park as described below:

Presidents Park was a ten-acre sculpture park and associated indoor museum formerly located in Williamsburg, Virginia in the United States. It contained 18-to-20-foot (5.5 to 6.1 m) high busts of the presidents of the United States from George Washington to George W. Bush.
The statues were sculpted by Houston artist David Adickes, who was inspired as he drove past Mount Rushmore when returning from a trip to Canada.The park was opened in March 2004 by local visitor attraction entrepreneur Everette H.”Haley” Newman III, who had been slowly taking delivery of the busts since 2000.

Busts of Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon
The park had financial troubles and was closed on September 30, 2010. Creditors put the park up for auction (not including the busts) on September 28, 2012, after a foreclosure auction originally scheduled for April 26, 2012 was cancelled without explanation. By January 10, 2013, the busts had been moved to private storage at a nearby local farm in Croaker, Virginia by Howard Hankins. In 2017, National Geographic showcased a video in which Mr Hankins’ expresses a hope to rehabilitate the statues for a park in the future.

Inspired after driving past Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, Houston sculptor David Adickes first envisioned opening a private park with busts of all of the president’s heads in York County by the fall of 2000. Adickes partnered with Everette Newman III, president of the FCR Group, which developed Water Country USA, to develop and operate the President’s Park. After acquiring land near Williamsburg, Newman hauled a half-dozen of the busts via flatbed truck to the site. Work was stopped almost immediately after York County officials informed Newman that he would need an outdoor commercial amusement permit to build the park and could not store the heads on the trucks.

Additionally, the idea to build the park was steeped in controversy as some feared it would draw tourists away from Colonial Williamsburg, and officials with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, the National Park Service, the city of Williamsburg, and York County called the project tacky and a sideshow. Dismayed, some of the busts were put up for display at the Norfolk Botanical Gardens while another three were trucked to Buena Vista for display in a park. Adickes then scrapped plans to open the first park in Williamsburg and opened a President’s Park in Lead, South Dakota about 40 miles from Mount Rushmore in January 2003, with plans to open another park in Florida.

After a judge ruled that Newman did not need a county permit to build the museum park in early 2001, Newman lined up investors and a $3.3 million loan to finance the $7 million project. 3 It was announced that the 11,000- to 20,000-pound busts would begin to arrive in Williamsburg by that July and later by April 2002 because of Adicke’s health issues and the opening of his South Dakota park The official opening date of the President’s Park was scheduled for the Presidents Day holiday in 2004, but a hurricane in September 2003 and poor weather delayed the opening until March 1.

Because of dwindling attendance and a lack of private funding, the President’s Park closed in the fall of 2010. The property then went into foreclosure.

The American Constitution Spirit Foundation wanted to save the park but the Foundation said that while BB&T bank foreclosed on the park in a bundle with about 25 other properties, it was sold to another bank in May 2011. Ultimately, the Foundation dropped the proposal.Prior to the land being auctioned off, Newman asked Howard Hankins, who helped construct the park, to destroy the busts in his stone crusher. Hankins instead offered to take the busts and move them to his 400-acre farm closer to the interstate and Williamsburg. The process of moving the massive sculptures took a week to complete and cost $50,000. Unfortunately, the relocation damaged each sculpture.The crane used to lift the sculptures to a flatbed truck required attaching a hook to the steel frame inside the busts, which required smashing a hole into the top of each sculpture’s head. The movement of the rigid busts also caused extensive structural issues. Adding insult to injury, a hole was formed in the back of Abraham Lincoln’s bust and Ronald Reagan’s bust bears the scar of a lightning strike.

In Croaker, Virginia stands a sight that would make just about anyone stop in their tracks. 43 ghostly effigies of presidents past crowd together in the tall grass. Some of the 18-to-20-foot busts have crumbling noses. Tear-like stains fall from the eyes of others. All have bashed-in heads to some degree. This could be a scene from the world’s most patriotic horror movie, but it’s all too real—and Howard Hankins’ family farm is just the latest stop on the busts’ larger-than-life journey from iconic pieces of art to zombie-like markers of America’s past.

Enjoy!

source

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