tv American Artifacts Presidents Heads CSPAN May 26, 2020 6:07pm-6:40pm EDT
>> you are now currently on the property of mr. howard handguns. he is a business owner. it is an industrial recycling, area and mr. hankins owned as much as 600 acres here and has her partitioned off a couple hundred of that acres to the nearby golf course. this is a small sliver of what is remaining of the 400 acres. the significance of that is that he was involved, partially involved in the creation of the original presidents park, which was a tourist site 12 miles from here that was open from
2004 until 2010. that was the home of all 42 of these sculptures. and he actually was also instrumental and commissioned in 2010 to come take the sculptures when that park went bankrupt and put them in his stone crusher. so, he did not have the heart to do that, thank god. and he spent a considerable amount of his own money to transport every one of these, one by one, from that bankrupt, nonfunctional park 12 miles from here, to his property here as a way to store them temporarily until he figured out what he wanted to do with them. the sculptor of all of these is a gentleman by the name of david adickes. he, if he is still alive, he's
probably as early nineties. he is a painter from an artist, based out of houston. he was visiting friends in canada. he was coming home by way of mild more and became so inspired by what he saw that he wanted to recreate the presidents, albeit on a smaller scale and he ended up creating three sets of them. one of which went to a little town in south dakota, to a park that is also now abandoned. he has a set himself in his now, i believe defunct studio in houston. this was the third set that was in presidents park and is now here in the little town of kroger. and, here we are this, nine years later and you can see that all of them have experienced a big significant amount of decay.
as a result of that, they have kind of become this internet sensation. i am not going to say they have become this popular primarily because they're falling apart, but i suspect it has something to do with it. so here they said, all 42 of them, in this field and we now have hundreds of people per month that come down here to see them because mr. hankins has been so generous in allowing us that opportunity. they were off limits for a number of years when they originally were moved here, he wanted the people of the public to enjoy them, so he actually kept it open for everybody to come down. the problem with that is, there were young children climbing on these 18 foot stall tall statues and a liability was a mess. so, justifiably so, it became completely private. the only people that were getting back here were
trespassers. so, a proposed something to him, that allowed him, or allowed the public to enjoy them that would protect them legally, in the form of a waiver form. a modest entrance fee for the walking tour, which is getting ready to occur here in about an hour. we also have separate evening photo shoots designed for intermediate and advanced photographers when they are coming here at night and shooting them under the stars. it has been a wonderful thing so far. that is kind of we are at a standstill now until we figure out what the future of these heads are going to be. they were originally slated to go somewhere in the northeast. that has temporarily been put on hold. there's all kinds of other proposals on the table for people that either want to buy them, move them, or possibly even create a studio here. until that happens, until there
is some clarity to that situation on random weekends, i conduct orders down here so people are able to enjoy. >> does anyone know what his nickname was? that's why did they call him old hickory? because he was tough as old hickory. he was one bad dude. >> the interesting thing was, it was kind of an engineering feat as to how to move them because, despite the fact that these are hollow, they're also anywhere between 17,000 and 22,000 pounds. and that, not that many people would find that very easy to transport these. albeit only for 12 miles. what he ended up doing, you will see that every one of these presidents has a whole intentionally put on the top of their head. the purpose of that was to expose the steel and oh
skeleton, that allowed one of mr. hankins excavators to gain enough purchase of lift to be able to put it onto a flatbed full of tires. then they strap them down and moved them here one by one. the interesting thing about that is not all of these sculptures are the same size. there are 42 of them here, despite the fact that there are 43 presidents represented. that is because the robots are twice. let's colder decided that he wanted to make seven of them grander than the remaining 35. that was because he thought that it would be need to recognize the, quote unquote, vip presidents in a larger format. so, seven of the presidents, including george, andrew, gabe,
both roosevelt, wilson and actually thomas jefferson, who is in the back are the seven presidents whom he identifies through interviewing historians, presidential experts, academics that, history teachers and such, professors, who they thought were the seven most influential presidents. that is why they are 25% larger than the remaining 35. so, it was pretty easy for him to take the 35 smaller ones first and move them here and stack them in rows of 11. for some reason, thomas jefferson, who in my opinion deserves to be up front with george and abe, got stuck in the back and that is for reasons that are unbeknownst to me. he is the only vip president who is not in the front row.
all of the other ones were stacked because his excavator had the capacity to lift each and every one of them based on his max capacity of left. the problem he encountered was, when he got to the larger presidents, juan excavator would not work. so he had to use to. he was able to successfully then start stacking the larger presidents in front, starting with woodrow wilson that, teddy roosevelt, fdr, but then he realized that they took the final three, washington, jackson and lincoln, that it would be obscured to the remaining ones. so he had to pick and choose which three he wanted to come up front. these are the three that he chose. we will talk about why this in a moment. that is kind of how the
schematic and the order of them occurred. it is not chronologically, it is fairly random. you see most of the smaller ones are set back and the larger ones are up front. george is one of the favorites. he obviously was born, he was born i think around 95 miles from here in a little place in virginia and west more lynn county. and he was a redhead. a lot of people think that he warwick. he actually powdered his hair. he was a distiller of whiskey and, what he called the father of the american foxhound. he had at any given point up to 30 different foxhounds, two of which were named drunkard and tipsy. he had an intense fear of being buried alive. which, believe or not, was not
terribly uncommon back in the 1700s. people were dying of things like smallpox and cholera and, people suspected that those that had passed, were actually catatonic from their diseases and were sometimes prematurely barely. he lived with intense fear of being buried alive. he is, he will never be outranked militarily. he has his own military ranking above and beyond the five star general that forces him to never be outranked. he was also the only president to never live in the white house. it was not until john adams came around where he began to occupy the white house. he did die from, i believe, a throat infection or tracheal information or something. they called it bloodletting, where they were bloodletting him and his last words to the world were to swell.
when andrew, although it is tough to see from here, he had some actual, he is the only sculpture here that mr. hankins attempted to clean up. coincidentally, he was trying to clean up some decay on his cheeks. oddly enough, andrew jackson spent most of his life with a scar on his cheek because, when he was a young man, i believe for the tennessee militia, he took a sword to the face from a soldier after president jackson refused to shine his boots. he died, i believe with a couple of bullets in his chest. not from being shot, but had engaged several others in gun duels. his nickname was old hickory, because people said he was to have his old hickory. the and other interesting fact about president jackson is that
he apparently taught his pet parrot how to swear. that is sometimes problematic in the white house for some of his guests. so, people often ask me on tours when i would deliver it, they understand why abraham lincoln and george washington are up front, but they questioned why andrew jackson is front and center. all three of these are on bills, dollar bills, monetary american currency. but people suspect, rightfully so, that thomas jefferson and, or fdr, should probably be up here front and center with the big three. i do not disagree with that. i finally asked the owner why andrew jackson and love here front and center. his response to me was very interesting. he said well that is simple. he's got really pretty hair and i like his apple let's. so anyhow, he does, he has nice
hair and great epilepsy. i started doing these tours and talking about legitimate presidential accomplishments and nobody cared. people were not entertained. then i started saying how andrew jackson's parents, parents the people of this stuff. people want to hear the silly, odd stuff. president lincoln, the tallest of all of the presidents at six foot four, which was pretty darn title iv back in the day. contrary to that, the shortest president was president james madison, who was a full foot shorter than that. he was five foot four and 99 pounds. president lincoln, obviously assassinated in the ford theater. he actually predicted his death from a dream that he had had the night before. as grant was supposed to have been his guest that night, who had to bail at the last minute
and, on president lincoln's desk in the oval office the night he was assassinated was legislation to create the secret service. i'll be, it not for presidential protection, primarily for counterfeiting purposes, and i thought that was kind of ironic. he was also a world-class wrestler and supposedly wrestled and more than 300 matches, losing only one of them. someone told me that he is enshrined in the world rustling hall of fame, which i thought was interesting. coincidentally, i want to show you something over here. of all 42 sculptures, the only one to take a spill off of a flatbed was abe. that hole in the back of his head was not intentional. the one on the top was. that occurred when he fell off of the flatbed, which i thought
was pretty ironic. that is a little something about these three. the remaining 39 statues are kind of clustered together in this patch of grass. in this summertime, you cannot even see the whole right side of this entire cluster because it is so overgrown. basically what becomes a forest. at first i had a problem with that because it was scaring to a lot of the presidents, but then we kind of realized it made for any photography. almost like the creepy cool haunted forests that you could walk through all of these leaves and bushes and look up at these presidents that are trying, they are kind of in shrouded in the shrubbery. but, it finally became so overwhelming that the groundskeeper came and took it all down. it is beginning to grow back right now, as you can see. some of the presidents here are
obscured by weeds and other dead grass that is growing up. this is james buchanan. who is the only one of all the presidents to kind of be staring down. if you look at the orientation of all of their heads, almost all of them are staring straight at you. he has this look where the angle of his head is looking right down at you. whether it is in the day or at night, it kind of imparts the super creepy feeling that makes me uneasy. someone else also once told me that he was the only one of all of the presidents to never marry, which i thought was an interesting fact. the bearded presidents, hayes, grant, garfield, they all to me look kind of similar.
you can tell that all of the neck where from every sculpture is timed specific, which is any. you can see here that there is some military garment with grant, where he has some stars on his shoulders. and, if you go down to george bush junior, you will notice that he has some elephants on his tie, which i thought was interesting. james garfield, from what i have read that, had an interesting talent where he could write a sentence with one hand in latin, while simultaneously writing in other sentence with his other hand in greek. i thought that was fascinating. bill clinton is sometimes difficult for people to recognize. i do not know why. i think he is pretty true to form. he sits there in the back and he looks fairly young.
gerald ford is right next to him over here. the interesting thing about gerald ford is that he was the most difficult of all of the sculptures to create. that is because his features are so and pronounced. why contrary, president lincoln was the easiest for him to make because his features are so pronounced, which i thought was interesting. thomas jefferson, as you can see, is probably the third most decayed president here. you see that he is starting to fall apart pretty good. and he died, so i've heard, on the same day as john adams, four hours apart. albeit on july the 4th. i thought that was an interesting piece of history. on dry days in the summer,
often we allow our guest to walk through here. you can see that this area is pretty wet. we have some significant weather here lately. we have never seen snakes back here, but it looks like it is an area that is completely conducive to snakes. i always make sure that my guests are mindful of that as they are walking through here. there are all kinds of different weather where we will conduct these tours. the neatest thing i have seen is a bald eagle circling georges head. we have been out here in electrical thunderstorms that night, where it looks like there is these crawler lightning strikes that are coming out of fdr's mouth. i have not been back here in the wintertime, but i know there's a lot of people that would absolutely die to photograph or see these in the snow. that will be very exciting. and then fog, fog would be the
perfect element to see these and experience them. come on over here. this is my personal favorite. this is fdr, who died in his fourth term. the hole on the top of his head is pretty pronounced relative to the holes on the rest of their heads. i do not know why, but you can kind of see this deal infrastructure coming out of the top of it. he supposedly was a victim of polio. and the, i have read somewhere that some current physicians nowadays are not absolutely convinced that he had polio, rather a disorder called galen beret syndrome. regardless of the authenticity of that claim, the interesting thing about it is because he was either a victim of polio or purportedly had polio, that because he was such a
high-profile individual, a lot of people say thousands of lives were saved because of the acceleration of the timeline and the appropriation of the funds that ultimately ended up in the vaccine created by -- . i thought that was an interesting tidbit of information. this is george bush junior. who is also highly decayed, if you can zoom in on his tie, you can see where he has these elephants, a lot of people love seeing that. the most decayed president is woodrow wilson. he pretty much looks like he has leprosy. and the question always comes up, is there a rhyme or reason as to why these guys are decaying at a faster rate than the remaining and i just do not understand or know if there's any reason behind it? perhaps he is in a wind pattern
or rain pattern that makes him more susceptible to cracking, i just don't know. i do know that if you look closely at this president who is one of eight virginian presidents born and raised in stanton, look into his right eyeball. that is the wasps nest, not uncommon. often you will see them in the nostrils of the sculptures as well. a few of them are starting to mix some parts. lyndon johnson is starting to lose the end of his nose. ronald reagan was struck by lightning a few years back. but he has successfully been cleaned up since. probably the most difficult of all of the presidents to identify, is back here behind president reagan. no one has ever gotten this right. i had to really study him hard
to figure out who was. that is warren hearting. behind him is john adams who is tough to see because of all of the overgrowth. the neatest fact that i have come across through a lot of my research is ronald reagan, when he was asked what his proudest accomplishment was in life, it had nothing to do with his presidency, nor his acting career. his proudest accomplish it was he claims to have saved 70 70 lives when he was a young man as a yet lifeguard. i thought that was very interesting. the question always comes up, will obama ever be here, or was he ever hear. the answer is, the goal for the original park is that every time a president was to come into office that a two foot
tall prototype was going to be made as a sample, approved upon and then brought full scale. so when obama was coming into office, they approached the owner of the park at the time who had already recognized the financial difficulties that were going on, he declined to go full scale with obama. they kept the little miniature obama who lived in this green shipping container along with a miniature white house for many years. unbeknownst to me, one of my photography students who is here for a night workshop, decided when i left he came back and stole them. he took them. so that did not go over very well at all. fortunately this whole place is rigged with security camera so we found out who it was. he claimed to have a weak
moment and he would bring baby obama back. we now keep him lock and key and we have only brought him out five times sometimes with security guards because he is very important and we don't want to get stolen again. is there a trump? no, there is not. but the owner has bought a little baby one, about this big. the reason i got involved with this, i'm also a photographer and i specialize in abandon structures. i love everything about abandoned photography, homes, churches, diners, if it is decaying it is interesting. that hobby turned into a sizeable instagram following, that turned into a coffee table book called beautifully broken virginia. that coffee table book started going viral, so they ended up putting me on faculty is an adjunct speaker.
when i have free time they send me around the state as a storyteller. all of these beautiful places in virginia have stories behind them much like you just heard. a lot of the public really enjoys hearing the story. they love the pictures, but they want to know, there is no closure until they get the back story. i started doing that for the museum, recognized how much the public loved that then i started doing professional storytelling in virginia on my own. that started in libraries and escalated into theaters. now i do them at the actual abandon places themselves. i approached the owner about that and told him i could protect him legally and make him some money to go back into his foundation and allow the public to come back and enjoy these. he allowed me to do that. it has blossomed, here and in other places.
here is the most spectacular. you guys have been great, any questions? >> thank you. >> i'm going to check on my wife and then come back. you have until 4:00. >> why are you attracted to abandon and decaying places? >> two reasons, one is i love the texture, the mood, the mystery. that is just something from a photographic perspective that i love. i am a type a personality and love the social part about it, the challenge of going out into the community and knocking on doors, walking into fire stations, interviewing loggers, hanging out in diners, loitering it guest a shuns, all in the spirit of meeting fellow virginians to me is enjoyable. i absolutely love it. what started as a simple hobby to grow an instagram following has quickly graduated into a strong devotion to allowing