Between the Statue of Liberty in New York and South Dakota's Mount Rushmore, the concrete heads of 43 US presidents lie deteriorating in a Virginia field. The Presidents Park statues have become more well-known than the short-lived park, which shut down in 2010 thanks to lack of attendance. Rather than symbols of American history, the heads have been relegated to striking images online that make them look like any other abandoned amusement park.
Presidents Park was intended to be an educational landmark dedicated to preserving the memory of all America's presidents. The busts—from George Washington to George W. Bush—were situated so visitors could approach them, inspect the detailed faces up close, and compare the likenesses to actual presidential photos. Instead of being destroyed when the park closed, the Virginia president heads were moved to a nearby field where they still sit, waiting to be restored and given another chance to stare back blankly at tourists.
The Heads Were All Damaged When Moved To A Nearby Farm After The Park Closed
For two years after the park closed, the presidential heads were left to fall into disrepair. Eventually, the land was auctioned off and the park was replaced by a car rental company, but the heads were spared. Park owner Haley Newman asked local concrete recycler Howard Hankins to crush up the heads and get rid of them. Feeling guilty about destroying the works of art, Hankins decided to keep the heads himself and stored them for the time being on his 400-acre farm about 10 miles from the park grounds.
Transporting 43 concrete heads that each weigh as much as 20,000 pounds wasn't cheap, costing him about $50,000. Most of the heads were damaged in the process, too. Holes had to be made in the top of the heads to give cranes something to pick them up by, and many of the presidents' necks cracked when the heads were lifted off the ground. Noses were broken, chins were scraped, and other holes made as the crew experimented with the best methods for moving the giant sculptures. Lincoln suffered the most damage as he was dropped and suffered an eerily apt hole in the back of his head.
The Heads Suffered Disrepair Because The Park Couldn't Afford Upkeep
Because the presidents' heads were displayed outdoors, they needed a lot of maintenance to stay clean. Low attendance meant the park was unable to afford most necessary repairs, and the heads started to show wear long before the park was forced to shut down. The rain and sun took their toll on the stone, and birds left behind stains as well. Ronald Regan was even struck by lightning, badly damaging half his face. After the park closed, the disrepair grew worse with pieces crumbling and stains appearing that almost resemble tears. Many heads were damaged during their move from the park and now sit in an overgrown field looking more horrific than presidential.
Poor Attendance Forced Presidents Park To Close Six Years After It Opened
Presidents Park opened to the public in 2004 with the intention of teaching visitors, especially children, about America's history and the part each president played in the nation's journey. It was an open-air museum covering 10 acres of land complete with manicured walking paths and informational signs containing facts about history.
Perhaps if the park was closer to the bigger local tourist destination, Colonial Williamsburg, it might have drawn bigger crowds. Its location wasn't much help, since the park was set up behind a motel and hidden behind a wooded area. After putting $10 million into its creation and operating for six years, poor attendance proved too much and the park shut down in 2010.
Each Head Weighs As Much As 22,000 Pounds And Stands Around 20 Feet Tall
Each of the presidents' heads weighs about 22,000 pounds and stands between 18 and 20 feet tall. They have a steel skeleton which was covered in fabric and then concrete. Visitors who have saw them up close claimed the experience of having a life-life historic icon looming over you is quite powerful, even before their faces started falling off.
Artist David Adickes allegedly wanted the busts to be up to ten times the size of the final versions and planned to make George Washington a full-body statue standing 92 feet high; about the size of a 10 story building. The idea for the gigantic George was scrapped, partially because officials told Adickes he'd have to put a lightning rod on top of Washington's head.