Presidential Park at Waterlights

Texas to Get Prez Heads and Titanic Cowboy

David Adickes thinks big. His Presidents Parks in South Dakota and Williamsburg, Virginia display 18-foot-tall busts of every American Commander-in-Chief, from Washington through Bush II. His 76-foot-tall statues of Sam Houston in Huntsville and Stephen Austin in Angleton -- the Texas colonizer Steve Austin, not the Six Million Dollar Man -- are the largest in Texas and among the loftiest anywhere.

Lincoln.

Adickes, who is 79, plans to retire soon. Until then, however, he is working hard to leave Texas (his home state) with many large, permanent reminders of his presence. "I've still got a couple of volts left in my battery," he said.

Adickes wants to erect four 36-foot-tall statues of The Beatles -- his favorite musical group -- along I-10, just west of downtown Houston. A few miles east along the freeway, Adickes will unveil oversized shoulder-to-shoulder busts of Washington, Lincoln, Houston, and Austin at a curve where the traffic always bottlenecks. He plans to christen it "Mt Rushhour."

In addition, a third and final Presidents Park is being built, this one only a few miles south of Houston in Pearland. It's the most elaborate yet, and its purpose is to entice people into a new "mixed use development" of hotels, restaurants, a shopping mall, offices, and condos named WaterLights. The developer calls it "the Venice of Houston" because it will have a canal. Visitors will be able to view the big heads, arrayed along a manufactured, scalloped shoreline, from the comfort of a canopied tour boat. The park is slated to open in the summer of 2008.

Why big president heads? Adickes told us that after he finished the Sam Houston statue in 1994 he took a driving vacation and stopped to see Mt Rushmore. "I was overwhelmed by the size," he recalled, "but I was disappointed that I couldn't get closer to it. And working on Sam Houston's head -- up close -- was a nice experience. So I decided to make some big president heads and put them in a garden, where people could get up close and touch them. And then I thought, well, I can't just do the same four. And I couldn't pick and choose, say, 20 of them. I had to do them all."

Truman.

Adickes said that he will make one last president head, of whoever wins the 2008 election, exclusively for Presidents Park in Texas.

Throughout our conversation Adickes kept asking us, "Are there any good, big cowboys? Any real, serious, big cowboys?" We mentioned the Tex Randall statue, and the Creature of the Id cowboy that we saw one night in the Texas panhandle, and of course the Westernized Muffler Men. None of them, however, met Adickes' standards of real, serious, or big. Then he told us why he was curious. David Adickes wants his final project to be a realistic statue of a cowboy, and he intends to make it the largest statue in the world.

"Right now the largest is in Russia, the Motherland statue, at 272 feet," he said. "I wanna go eight feet above that -- 280 feet -- because this is Texas."

Adickes has already made drawings of the cowboy, and he's been scouting property along I-35 between Austin and San Antonio. He wants the statue to stand on a hill "so you can see him from miles away," and to have enough surrounding acreage so that you can admire it properly from the ground. (He noted that The Golden Driller in Tulsa, Oklahoma, suffers from a lack of good viewing angles.) Ideally, Adickes said, he would like a rodeo ground to be built around the statue. But he's flexible.

We asked if Adickes was planning to build an observation deck on the brim of the cowboy's hat. He answered, "Have you ever been up in the Statue of Liberty? It's a tough walk" (And the Statue of Liberty is only 150 feet tall.). Instead, Adickes wants an observation deck "at the belt loop level," which will still be 15 stories above the ground.

"That'll be my swan song," Adickes said of the cowboy statue. "After that, I'm going to start carving the Lord's Prayer on the head of a pin," he cracked, "but I don't think it'll get me into heaven."

[04/07/2007]
Directions:
Presidential Park at WaterLights. Twelve miles south of downtown Houston, off of Hwy 288, just southwest of Beltway 8, at South Spectrum Blvd.
Hours:
April 2010 - Heads moving back to warehouse.

December 18, 2014

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