David Adickes

July 24, 2020

Paul Kay

Texan David Adickes creates larger than life statues for installations around the world. Here's a brief introduction to Adickes' work, especially his famously huge presidential busts.

Paul, Sam Houston Statue, A Tribute to Courage, David Adickes, Houston, Texas

David Adickes is famous for the 67-foot Sam Houston statue in Huntsville, Texas (about 70 miles north of Houston).

Paul, Beatles Statues, David Adickes, Houston, Texas

Adickes also created the very cool Beatles statues in Houston. He’s most famous for his giant presidential busts. Adickes sculpted every president from Washington to Obama!

President Busts, David Adickes Workshop, Houston, Texas

David Adickes created three sets of presidential busts. Madeline and I saw one set in his studio in Houston. But the busts were behind a large cyclone fence, so we couldn’t get up close. They were magnificent—even at a distance!

President Busts and Truck, David Adickes Workshop, Houston, Texas

Adickes was born in Huntsville, Texas. Driving past Mount Rushmore inspired him to create the giant presidential busts. Each bust measures 18 to 20 feet tall and weighs between 11,000 and 20,000 pounds.

President’s Park

Lead, South Dakota

The first set of the president busts were on display at a President's Park in Lead, South Dakota, 50 miles north of Mount Rushmore. This park opened in 2004 and closed in 2010. Some of the busts are still there, but others were move to RV parks and lawns of hotels and inns. For example, Theodore Roosevelt’s bust is at the Roosevelt Inn in Watford, North Dakota; Abraham Lincoln’s bust is at the Lincoln RV Park south of Williston, North Dakota. The Bismarck Tribune published a photo of TR at the Roosevelt Inn. He looks good!

President’s Park

Croaker, Virginia

Adickes helped build another park of presidential heads near Williamsburg, Virginia. By the time the park got the zoning and land appropriated, the busts had been moved and the problems started coming. The park, built to the tune of $10 million, opened in 2004. It never made any real impact due to a lack of visitors. While the park was only 10 miles away from colonial Williamsburg, it was not well advertised. To make matters worse, the park was hidden behind a hotel. Only locals knew where to find it. The park went into foreclosure.

In 2010, the park declared bankruptcy and was left abandoned for a couple of years. Howard Hankins earned a commission to destroy them. But he couldn’t bring himself to do it. They were beautiful pieces of art! He decided to save them and moved all 43 presidents to his industrial recycling site about 12 miles away. Mr. Hankins spent over $50,000 of his own money. He and a crew of six people spent more than three weeks to move the 43 busts. Lincoln took a tumble in transit and now has a hole in the back of his head.

Hankins opened the statues to the public for a while. But he wasn’t prepared for his recycling site to act as a tourist attraction. His liability insurance premium became too much. Initially, he cut access to the busts. But eventually came to a compromise: He runs a tour a month in winter and two a month in summer. Tickets sell out after 100 guests.

The presidents look a little worse for wear. Hankins had to punch holes into the tops of the heads to hook up to steel skeleton, crane them onto flatbeds, and then move them to his property. My Modern Met explains how they have not been well maintained. But people still love the massive busts. Hankins’ tour slots are always in demand.

H.E.A.R.T.S. Veterans Museum of Texas

Huntsville, Texas

Originally Mr. Adickes thought the last grouping of presidential busts would reside in Pearland, Texas. But that development never made it. Now, the remaining sculptures are going to Huntsville, the home of Adickies’ Sam Houston statue. The presidential busts will leave his museum in Houston. Mr. Adickes is forced to move his presidential collection to make way for yet another Houston highway. His workshop will close, and the busts moved up the road. Each bust will make the trip in two pieces on flatbed trucks. The two pieces will be welded back together from the inside to again appear timeless (and seamless).

Mr. Adickes is probably relieved that his presidents will have a permanent collection in Texas, close to his statue of Sam Houston. He said that Abraham Lincoln was his favorite because his features were so distinctive. Gerald R. Ford was the most difficult to create because his face lacked unique details.

The circular park will display an American flag in its center. A capital campaign has already begun, and all donations are tax deductible. To ask questions or make a donation, contact Tara Burnett at (936) 295-5959 or go to the HEARTS Museum.

Huntsville and Houston are great places to explore, especially if you are a fan of David Adickes or art of any kind. Y’all need to come down to Texas and take a gander when you’ll in the neighborhood!

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