Giant Statue of Sam Houston
Huntsville offers odd extremes when it comes to tourism. As nexus of the Texas penal system, it provides convenient public viewing of "Old Sparky," the electric chair which sent 361 condemned criminals to the extra crispy regions during 40 years of service. You can see it at the Texas Prison Museum. When you're done admiring the shivs and contrabands displays, head south of town for a glimpse of the world's tallest statue of an American hero: Sam Houston.
At 67 feet tall (on a 10-foot-tall base) statue is named "A Tribute to Courage." Sam Houston, celebrated political architect of Texas, towers in concrete above Interstate 45, with walking cane and snappy duds of a 19th century statesman (though he could also be mistaken for a statue of P.T. Barnum). In the summer humidity of east Texas, we appreciate the tensile strength of one who could dress like this and still lead.
Stupendous Sam is touted in attraction literature as the second largest freestanding statue in the U.S., bested only by the allegorical and over-promoted Statue of Liberty (And, pssst... Roadsiders know of other statues taller than Sam, such as Tulsa's 76-foot-tall Golden Driller and Butte's 90-foot-tall Our Lady of the Rockies).
Artist David Adickes, born and schooled in Huntsville, sculpted this colossal monument to the man who still inspires Texans to reach lofty heights. Sam Houston (1793-1863) remembered the Alamo with his surprise victory/slaughter of Santa Anna's more experienced and professional Mexican Army at San Jacinto, then went on to become President of the Republic of Texas, Governor of the State of Texas, and a U.S. Senator.
Adickes started in early 1992, not exactly certain how he would accomplish the massive project. The 25-ton steel-and-concrete colossus is comprised of 10-foot sections, each containing five layers of concrete reinforced with steel straps. The outside layer includes a fiberglass mesh. It was dedicated on October 22, 1994.
Access is via the next I-exit, by following a parallel road behind a wooded park area. The entrance gift shop sells tiny reproductions of the statue, and a "Sam Houston Replica Cane" mounted on the wall. On the trail to the monument, visitors can pose with a large 3D version of the statue's face.
Adickes couldn't put down his chisel after finishing Sam Houston. He's the sculptor who spent subsequent years creating giant U.S. President heads that can be seen in Sam's namesake city, and in less-expected places as well.