J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Thursday, June 04, 2015

Presidents Out Standing in Their Field

Though I did just visit Virginia, I didn’t go to Presidents Park outside Williamsburg.

That’s because Presidents Park, which opened in 2004, lasted only six years. Never a surefire idea to begin with, the attraction didn’t survive the Great Recession.

Last year Joanne Kimberlin reported in the Virginian-Pilot that “Howard Hankins, a road builder and developer whose company had worked on the original park,” had removed the sculptures to his own property rather than destroy them completely:
To move them, he had to punch a hole in the concrete head of each commander in chief so a chain could be dropped inside its hollows, attached to its steel frame, then hooked to a crane. The sculptures were rocked to break them free from their pedestals. Most cracked around their necklines the moment the crane started to lift.

Hankins isn’t sure how much the monuments weigh. Stories from back in the day put them at 7,500 pounds apiece, but he thinks they’re a lot heavier: His crane is rated for 26,000 pounds, and “it could barely pick them up.”

Height was another problem. Originally shipped in two pieces, with heads separate from shoulders, they range from 16 to 20 feet tall in the assembled state Hankins had to deal with.

Trial and error - the back of Lincoln’s skull took a terrible bashing - combined with careful measuring of overpass clearances and a week’s worth of hauling ultimately landed the sculptures at Hankins’ 400-acre farm, 10 miles from the park.

There, he placed the presidents – from George Washington to George W. Bush – in a field behind the house, hoping to someday return them to the spotlight.
The photograph above by Patrick Joust via Flickr. It’s the best I’ve seen at capturing the broken grandeur of this site today.

2 comments:

Don N. Hagist said...

"the back of Lincoln’s skull took a terrible bashing"
Must not make obvious joke...

RoJa said...

All of Mr. Joust's images on Flickr are remarkable, but you are on target about his photos of the Presidents!