CROAKER, Va (WAVY) – In a remote plateau surrounded by winding dirt roads, where trucks kick up yellow dust, 43 heads of state tower over a shared office of tall brown weeds. It’s unusually quiet for such a gathering of politicians.
But this field off I-64 is home to a unique collection of weathered busts spanning more than two centuries of American history. Saving them as become and one man’s quest.
There’s Lincoln, Jackson, Kennedy, Reagan and of course Washington. They feature aged streaks of rust from tired eyes down chiseled faces, representing tears of neglect. Time has not been kind to these crumbling works; which stand 20 feet tall and weigh close to 20,000 pounds. Howard Hankins was hired to return these concrete and plaster relics to dust.
“I just couldn’t see destroying them.”
Now Hankins is on a mission to restore these 43 gentlemen to their original grandeur, when they were created by Texas artist David Adickes, then stood in a place called President’s Park for six years, until it went bust in 2010.
“I looked down and said, ‘Man I would love to save these and rebuild a park in the right place,'” recalled Hankins.
The right place, Hankins says, would be closer to the other historic attractions of Williamsburg, and he believes these men could once again dominate the global stage.
“I get calls from all over the world. People wanting to come see em.”
In this unusually silent gathering of presidents, one may get the sense of quiet American dignity passing away.
“I think the people need to hear the story behind these men of what they accomplished for this country and respect it.”
Hankins estimates it would take between $1,500 to $2,000 for each bust, to restore them to their former glory. He says each was appraised at about $100,000.
And he’s not done. Hankins proudly shared a mock-up of our 44th president. He is raising money to make a bust of Barack Obama, and to build that new museum on land he already has available. He even started a website dedicated to the cause.
If the bust of John F. Kennedy could talk, he might present a variation of his often repeated command given during his inaugural address, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for us.”