The Virginia Field Where 43 Presidential Heads Rest
Imagine taking a small stroll only to come across a field where head statues of 43 U.S. Presidents sit.
As eerily as this sounds, it’s not a scene out of a horror film, and there is a farm that serves as home to head statues of 43 Presidents.
Standing in rows in a field down in Croaker, Virginia, the 18-20 foot ghostly effigies of past U.S. presidents heads have found a home, crowded together in the tall grass.
Weighing up to 20.000 pounds, these shoulder busts are a staunch reminder that dreams, no matter how big they are, could get lost without care.
Located in the Howard Hankins family farm and a historian’s dream, these larger than life iconic art pieces are an interesting reminder of America’s past, but they didn’t just wander there. Because imagine huge heads bobbing through till they find a home, creepy, right?
An almost lost history
All that’s left of Virginia’s Presidents Park; these presidential statues were carved for the now-defunct open-air museum that allowed visitors to walk among the presidential heads. The giant busts cared by Houston sculptor David Adickes were inspired after he took a drive past Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.
In 2004, the Presidents Park opened to the public, a collaboration between local landowner Everette “Haley” Newman and Adickes. The 10-acre park featured a museum and a sculpture garden which was the highlight of tourist visits.
However, six years later, the $10million park eventually went belly-up following reduced visitor visits. As exciting as the park was with its one-in-a-million features, the presidential park was doomed by one major flaw; its location.
House behind a motel and far away from colonial Williamsburg tourist attractions, the park went into foreclosure, and the heads lay undisturbed until the land auction.
The new landowners had chosen to turn the land into a rental car auction, and Newman had requested that Howard Hankins, owner of a local waste management company, destroy the heads.
With the presidential vision fast lost, Hankins, a true American, didn’t feel right about destroying what could be considered monuments of American history.
In the park’s documentary All the Presidents’ Heads, Hankins explained how he chose to save this history “Instead of going into the crusher, I brought them up to the farm and there they are in their new home.”
But he wasn’t just going to drag each 20,000-pound structure away from its stand, and it was going to cost a lot of money and time.
Soon, 10 men began the long, tedious job of moving these historical figures from the park to a new home 12miles away; Hankins 400-acre farm. And so the laborious process of moving the heads began, a job which took weeks and cost about $50,000; the move left each head with substantial damage.
To lift these giant pieces, a crane had to lift each head from the base, so the sculptures’ heads had to be cracked. Next, the crane was attached to a steel frame inside the bust and once lifted, they were loaded onto a flatbed truck and hauled down to their current resting ground.
The first few heads moved bore the brunt of inexperience, missing noses, backsides, and many structural issues; these heads now sit incomplete, a reminder that dreams can be dashed.
While other heads survived, Abraham Lincoln’s bust features a huge hole to the back of its head following a fall during its move and also a reminder of Lincoln’s tragic end.
The statues sit nestled together in three lines in their new home, except for George Washington’s bust, which sits on the side overlooking the group.
They all now sit decaying in three neat lines on the farm (except for George Washington, who stands to the side overlooking the group), where they continue to crumble, peel and crack, left to withstand the harsh, sometimes brutal weather.
Not an official tourist centre as Hankins lacks the license, a few wanderers and tourist groups have found their way to this field.
Photographer and storyteller of abandoned places in Virginia Plashal alongside Hankins now organise public access to these statues in small tour groups. Leading one tour group monthly in winter and two groups during the summer, the access number is capped at 100 people.
While Hankins’s dream of giving the heads a new home remains unattained, it’s still notable to always remember a Virginia farm where the heads of 43 former U.S. Presidents rests exists.