David Adickes is widely known for the man who built the giant Sam Houston statue in Huntsville.
He could soon be widely known for another major tourist attraction in the Piney Woods.
Adickes, in conjunction with the H.E.A.R.T.S. Veterans Museum of Texas is preparing to construct a presidential park in Huntsville, after the renowned artist and sculpture donated his collection of 44 presidential busts to the museum. The busts of former US Presidents — from George Washington to Barack Obama — are 18 to 20 feet, each weighing in between 11,000 to 20,000 pounds.
The busts, which are currently housed in Adickes’ studio in Houston, are one of three sets, after he was inspired to create the giant busts after driving past Mount Rushmore. His first set of the president busts were put on display at a Presidents Park in Lead, South Dakota, approximately 50 miles north of the historic landmark. Adickes would help build another park of presidential heads in Williamsburg, Virginia.
Both of those parks have since closed.
The most extravagant of the parks was set to be part of a development in Pearland. However, that development also went bust.
Now the sculptures built for the Pearland development — valued at $6.5 million — will be coming to Huntsville.
“Mr. Adickes is 92-years-old, and he wants to build an exhibit in his hometown where people can see these fantastic presidential busts,” said Kenneth Lee, board president for the H.E.A.R.T.S. Museum. “He wanted us to do it, so we are now working on ways to come up with the money to construct the park.”
Officials are planning to build the park on six acres of land directly behind museum and adjacent to Interstate 45. They are currently seeking sponsors of the statues for $3,500 each, which is approximately a third of the needed $400,000 to build the park.
“If you are driving down I-45 you will see this,” Lee added. “I believe this park will be as popular, if not more popular, than any other tourist attraction in Huntsville. If people come here to see the park, the chances are high that they are going to visit the other museums, they are going to visit downtown and they are going to eat and stay in Huntsville.”
The statues would come in two pieces on flatbed trucks from Houston. From there, the top piece would be lifted onto the bottom and welded together on the inside and sit on a 10-foot by 13-foot base. Afterward, the seam would be sealed with concrete and smoothed down.
“I sold the one in Virginia to investors that had somebody manage it who didn’t really know what he was doing,” Adickes told the Huntsville City Council in 2016. “The South Dakota one, I still own the property and the heads, but our window of opportunity to get anyone out there was 60 to 90 days a year. We charged $8 a person and there is just not that many tourists that want to pay that and the kids want to go to where the water is. As a theme park that’s supposed to make a profit, it is not good. It really has to be free to the public and serve its function as an educational event,”
Lee says that the park behind the H.E.A.R.T.S. Museum will be unique as the only installation of its kind in the United States.
“The addition of such a park is just one more opportunity to teach our visitors, especially our youth, about the history of our great nation,” Lee said. “There will be significant costs to complete this project, including preparing the ground site, concrete work for pads and sidewalks, lighting, and the transportation and setup of the busts.”
Those wishing to donate towards the park can contact Lee or H.E.A.R.T.S. Museum director Tara Burnett at (936)295-5959. All donations are tax deductible and sponsors will be recognized with signage at the Presidential Park.
“I told everyone involved that we wouldn’t do anything until we had enough money to pay for the project,” Lee said. “When it comes down to it, this is a legacy for Mr. Adickes and a potentially great new tourist attraction for Huntsville.”