The United States of America has had 44 men serve as president. While some have monuments to their legacy in our nation’s capital or their home cities, 43 are memorialized in pastoral Croaker, Virginia. Here, in a farmer’s field next to a woodchip production facility, 20-foot-high busts of the nation’s honored, but imperfect, leaders sit quietly waiting.
It was a rainy Sunday afternoon when I found myself face-to-face, well face-to-shoulder to be exact, with Harry Truman, Teddy Roosevelt, George Washington and co. To peer into the dinner-plate-sized eyes of these revered men, I had to crane my neck skywards. But the details were uncanny. Crafted of concrete and steel by Houston sculptor David Adickes, each president is easily identifiable in a frozen stare.
Its a haunting sight; a graveyard of our former leaders, our collective triumphs and failures on a grand scale.
On his own dime, at a cost of $50,000, Hankins had the busts moved to his family farm, with the hope of one day restoring them and creating a new park. “My plan is a real White House, actual size, with tours, a ballroom—every event the White House has, I’m going to have it.”
To date, only one of the Heads, that of the seventh president, Andrew Jackson, has been fully restored. Many of the busts were damaged during the move, which required boring a hole into the skull of each one so they could be hoisted by a crane.
Walking among the giant effigies now, all but Jackson are battered and crumbling in the elements. Its a haunting sight; a graveyard of our former leaders, our collective triumphs and failures on a grand scale.
As I snaked my way through the tall grass that now encircles the Heads, a figure of President Obama was glaringly missing. His bust sits in a green shipping container next to the giant sculptures and stands only three-feet-tall. Presidents Park ran out of funding before it could commission a full-sized Obama bust, but Hankins has plans to add Obama, and Trump, to the new park.
Until then, 43 of the most powerful men in history will continue to rest under a banner of stars.
A note to visitors: The Presidents Heads are located on private property down a narrow road flanked by ‘No Trespassing’ signs. In the past, it was possible to ask permission to view or photograph the Heads, but in recent weeks, many people have been turned away. Explore at your own risk.
Written by Kelly Paras