tv American Artifacts Presidents Heads CSPAN February 15, 2021 11:30am-12:01pm EST
you're watching american history tv created by america's cable television companies and we're brought to you by these companies that provide american history tv to viewers as a public service. so you're on the property of dr. howard hankins. it is an industrial recycling area and he owned as much as 600 acres here and has partitioned off a couple hundred to the near by golf course. and 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 original president's park. a tourist site 12 miles from here that was open from 2004 to 2010. and it was home to all 42 sculptures. he was also instrumental in coming to take the structures when the park went bankrupt and put them in his stone crusher. so he did not have the heart, thank god, and he spent considerable money to transport these from that bankrupt nonfunctional park to his property here as way to store them temporarily until he
figured out what he wanted to do with them. the sculptor of these is a gentleman named david adicks. if he is still alive, he is probably in his early 90s. he was a painter from an artist based out of houston who was visited friends in canada. and he was coming home by way of mount rushmore. he was so inspired he wanted to recreate the presidents on a smaller scale and he created three sets of them. one between the a little down 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, and this is now the third set that was in president's park and is now here in the little town of kroger.
and here we are you know nine years later, and you can see that all of them have experienced a significant amount of decay. they have become an internet sensation. i'm not going to say they're this popular brie marely because they're falling apart, but i think it has something to do with it. so here they sit 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. for years, when they were originally here, he wanted them to enjoy them.
they are climbing 18 foot tall statues. the only people getting back here were trespassers. so i prepared something to him that allowed him to enjoy them that would protect them. a modest entrance fee for the walking tour, and we have separate evening photo shoots for intermediate and advanced photographers. it has been a wonderful thing so far and we're at a stand still now until we figure out what the future of the heads will be. it was lated in the northeast.
it was put on hold, there is all kinds of proposals on the table from people that want to buy them, move them, or create a studio here. but until that happens, and until there is clarity to that situation on random weekends, i conduct tours down here for people to enjoy. >> does anyone know what his nickname is? >> old hickory. >> why did they call him old hickory? >> because he was tough as old hickory. he was one bad dude. >> it was kind of an engineering feet. they are hallow and they are between 17,000 and 22,000 pounds. and not that many people could find that very easy to transport
these. so what he ended up doing is, you'll see, that every one of these presidents has a hole in the top of their head. the purpose of that is to expose the steel endo skeleton to allow an excavator to get enough purchase of lift to be able to put it on to a flat bed full of tires. then they strapped 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 is 42 despite that there is 43 presidents represented. that's because grover cleveland served twice not successively.
he thought it would be neat to recognize the "vip president's" in a larger format. so george, andrew, abe, both roosevelts, woodrow wilson, and thomas jefferson who is in the back are the seven presidents that he identified through interviewing historians and who they thought were the seven most influential presidents. that's why they're 25% larger than the remaining 25.
for some reason, thomas jefferson that i think should be up front with george and abe, got stuck in the back and this is for reasons unbeknownst to me. all of the others were stacked because his excavator had the capacity to lift each and every one of them. the problem he encountered was when he got to the largest presidents, one excavator would not work. so he had to use two. e and he was able to successfully stack the largest presidents in front starting with woodrow wilson, teddy roosevelt, and if he took the final three it would
obscuring the remaining ones. so he had to pick which three would come up front. so he picked these three and we'll talk about why in a moment. that is how the schematic occurred. they are set back and the larger ones are up front. george is one of the favorites, and he was born i think around 95 miles from here in hopes creek, virginia. and he was a redhead. he powdered his hair. he distilled whisky.
at any given point up to 30 different -- two of which were named drunkard and tipty. he had an intense fear of being buried alive which was not terribly uncommon. and they expected those that were passed were actually just catatonic. so he lived with an intense fear. he had his own military ranking equal to a five-star jl. and he was also the only president to never live in the white house. it wasn't until john adams came around to where he started to occupy the white house.
they were blood leading him, and his last words to the world were tis well. although it is tough to see from here, he had some actual, the only sculpture here -- andrew jackson spent most of his life with a scar on his cheek. he was a young man i believe for the tennessee militia. and he took a sword to the face from a soldier after -- his boots. he died i believe with a couple
bullets in his chest, not from being shot, but there is a gun -- he was nicknamed old hickory because people said he was sufficient as hickory. he was taught how to wear and that became problematic in the house for some of the guests. probably be up here front and center with the big three. and i don't disagree with that. so i finally asked the owner why andrew jackson ended up here
front and center and his response to me was very interesting. he said well that's simple. he has really pretty hair and i like his epilets. so i started doing these tours in talking about legitimate presidential accomplishments and nobody cared. people were not entertained. then i started saying how andrew jackson's parents sweared and. people wanted to hear the silly odd tough. president lincoln, 6'4" that was pretty tall back in the day. the shortest was president james madison was 5'4" and 99 pounds. president lincoln assassinated in the ford theater.
he actually predicted his death from a dream he had the night before. ulysses s. grant was supposed to be his guest that night and he 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. albeit not for presidential production but more for counterfeit cases. he was in 300 wrestling matches, and he only lost one of them. he is like enshrined in the world wrestling hall of fame. i want to show you something over here. of all 42 sculptures, the only one to take a spill off of the
flat bed was abe. that whole in the back of his head was not intentional. the one on the top was. that occurred when he fell off of the flat bed which i thought was pretty ironic. so that is a little something about these three. the remaining 39 are clustered in a patch of grass. in the summer time you can't even see the whole right side of the entire cluster because it is so overgrown and basically what becomes a forest. at first i had a problem with that because it was obscuring a lot of presidents and then we realized it made for neat photography. it was like a creepy forest that you could walk through here and look up at the presidents that are kind of enshrouded in the
shrubbery. finally the grounds keep came and took it all down but it is kind of starting to grow back. some of the president's here are obscured by, you know, weeds and other dead grass that is growing up. this is james bucanan who is the only one of all of the presidents to kind of be staring down. if you look at the orientation of all of their heads, most of them are starring straight at you. he has a look where the angle of his head is looking right down at you. and whether or not it is in the day or at night, it is kind of imparting a super creepy feeling that makes me uneasy. someone also once told me he was
the only president to never marry. i thought that 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 neckware from every sculpture is time specific. you can see some military gash with grant with some stars on his shoulders. and if you go down to george bush junior, he has elephants on his tie which i thought was interesting. james garfield could write a sentence with one hand in latin while simultaneously writing another sentence with his other hand in greek. which i thought was fascinating.
bill clinton is sometimes difficult for people to recognize. i don't know why. i think he is pretty true to form. but he sits there in the back and he looks fairly young. gerald ford is right next to him over here. and the interesting thing about gerald ford is he is the most difficult of all of the sculptures for mr. adicks to create. his features are so unpronounced. 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 see, is probably the third most decayed president here. you see that he is starting to fall apart pretty bad. he died, so i've heard, on the
same day as john adams, four hours apart. albeit on july the 4th, which i thought was an interesting piece of history. on dry days in the summer we allow our guests to walk through here, but you can see that this area is pretty wet. we had significant weather here lately. we never see snakes back here, but it looks like an area that is completely conducive to snakes, so i always make sure my guests are mindful of that as they're walking through here. there is all kinds of different weather where we'll conduct these tours. the neatest thing i have seen is a bald eagle circling george's head. we have been out here during electrical thunderstorms at night where it looks like there is crawler lightning strikes.
i have not been out here in the wintertime, but i know some people would love to see or photograph these in the snow, and then fog. fog would be a perfect element to see these and experience them. come on over here. this is one of my personal favorites. 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 don't know why, but you can kind of see the steel infrastructure coming out of the top of it. he supposedly was a victim of polio, and i've read somewhere that some current physicians nowadays aren't absolutely convinced that he had polio,
rather a condition called gion bure syndrome but because he was reportedly a victim of polio or had polio, 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 jonas salk which i thought was an interesting tidbit of information. the this is george bush jr. who is also highly decayed. if you can zoom in on his tie you can see where he's got his elephants, a lot of people love seeing that. the most decayed president is woodrow wilson. pretty much looked like he's got leprosy, and the question always comes up is there a rhyme or a reason as to why these guys are
decaying at a faster rate than the remaining, and i just don't understand or know if there is any reason behind it. perhaps he's in a wind pattern or rain pattern that makes him susceptible to cracking, i just don't know, but what i do know is if you come look pretty closely at this present who was one of eight virginia native presidents born and raised in stanton, look in his -- his right eyeball. that is a wasp's nest which is not uncommon. often you'll see them in the nostrils of the sculptors as well. a few of them are starting to miss some parts. lyndon johnson is starting to lose the end of his nose. the ronald reagan was one of them that was struck by lightning a few years back, but he's been successively cleaned up since, and probably the most
difficult of all of the presidents to identify is back here behind president reagan. no one has ever gotten this right. as a matter of fact, i had to really study him hard to figure out who that was. that is warren harding, and behind him is john adams who is tough to see because of all of the overgrowth. the neatest fact that i've come across through a lot of my research is ronald reagan when he was asked what his proudest accomplishment in life was, it had nothing to do with his presidency nor his acting career. his proudest accomplishment in life is that he claims to have saved 77 lives from when he was a young man as a lifeguard, and i thought that was very interesting. the question always comes up
will obama ever be here or was he ever here? the answer to that question is the goal for the original park was every time a president was to come into office that a two-foot tall prototype was going to be made as a sample, improved upon and then brought full scale, so when obama was coming into office they approached the owner of the park at the time who i think had already recognized the financial difficulties that were going on, declined for financial reasons to go full scale on the obama, so they just kept the little miniature obama who lived in this green shipping container along with a miniature white house for many, many years. unbeknownst to me, one of my photography students who was here for a night workshop decided that when i left he came
back and stole him, took him, so that didn't go over very well at all. fortunately this whole place is rigged with security cameras and we figured out who it was. we ended up having a weak moment and basically brought baby obama back. we keep him under lock hand key and bring him out only sometimes with security guards because he is very important, and we don't want him to get stolen again. is there a trump? no, there is not, although the owner has bought a little baby one about this big. the reason i got involved with this is by secondary profession i'm a photographer and i specialize in basically abandoned structures. i love everything about abandoned photography, homes, churches, schools, hospitals, dip, you name it. if it's decaying, to me it's interesting. that hobby turned into a sizable instagram following and that
turned into a coffee table book called "a beautifully broken virginia." that coffee table book started to go viral in gift shops so they put me on faculty as an adjunct speaker and when i've got team on the weekends they send me around the state to story tell because all of these beautiful places in virginia have stories behind them, much like you've just heard. a lot of the public really enjoys hearing the back story. they lost pictures, but they want them to know there's no closure until they get the back story so i started doing that for the museum, recognized how much the public loved that and then started doing professional story telling of abandoned virginia on my own. the that started in libraries. it escalated into theaters, and now i do those at the actual abandoned places themselves, so i had approached the owner about that, told him that i could protect him legally, make him
some money to go back into his foundation and then allow the public to come back here to enjoy these, so he allowed me to do that, and it's just kind of blossomed ever since here and in other places. this is by far the most spectacular though. you guys have been great. any questions? >> thank you. >> thank you. >> all right. i'm going to check on my wife and come on back. you guys have until 4:00. >> yeah. >> why are you attracted to abandoned and decaying places? >> two reasons. number one, i love the texture, i love the mood, i love the mystery. that's just something from a photographic perspective that i absolutely love, and i'm also a type "a" personality, love the social part about it, and to me the challenge of going out into the community, knocking on doors, walking into fire stations, interviewing loggers, hanging out in diners, loitering at gas stations, all in the spirit of meeting fellow virginians who tee is enjoyable. i love it.
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