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A Family Inheritance In Concrete

The city once asked Ken Huston to move his life-size statues to his backyard because too many cars were slowing down to look at them. “I told them those statues are too heavy for me to move,” said Ken. “With the bases, some of them weigh a ton.” While I was visiting Ken a car stopped in front of his place and a lady stuck a camera out the window and snapped off a few quick pictures. Ken says people are always taking pictures of his weird statues which have also been an attraction on a local tour.

Most people wonder why this Fletcher Avenue home has statues standing like grey zombies in the front yard. The concrete figures are the last of a collection made in 1936 by Ken’s great-grandfather, Frank M. Klies who was a career navy bandsman. As a hobby, Klies crafted the statues by putting concrete over a frame of shaped-iron robs and metal screen, then etched the final details using a toothbrush and toothpicks. Klies, a descendant of Polish gypsies, made the statues in Maryland where several of them still stand. One of them, a statue of John Paul Jones was donated to the Annapolis Naval Academy.

The ones in Ken’s front yard include Abraham Lincoln, Jean Harlow, Eisenhower, Roosevelt, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor on inauguration day and one Marshall Joseph Pilsudski, complete with medals, who was the leader of Poland after the First World War. The only statue representing Ken’s ancestors is the one of his great-grandmother with her arm raised. He said she once held a trumpet, but like all the statues there is considerable wear and tear with parts missing. A few show faint pigments of paint which is an indication that some had originally been painted.

Not all of the collection is standing on the front lawn, there are several heads without bodies lying in Ken’s flower bed and in his backyard are three more statues. One is a reclining nude that Ken thought was a little risqué to be exhibited on the front lawn. The other two are the Duke and Duchess of Windsor on their wedding day. I noticed that the Duchess was standing proudly, but the poor Duke had fallen over in the bushes. I suppose like most grooms he got weak knees on his wedding day. There is a creative talent that has been passed through Ken’s family from his artist-musician great-grandfather. Ken is a retired designer and builder of water-features, those big elaborate waterfalls and pools that you see at exclusive resorts and in upscale residential communities.

His work has been featured in Better Homes and Gardens and many other publications. He could probably restore his statues but says it would distract from their historical value.

The collection has been passed down through generations of Ken’s family. It was first moved from Maryland to Miami, then to North Miami. Ken said that in the move to North Miami, one man lost his finger when it was smashed by one of the heavy figures. The statues remained with Ken’s family in South Florida for several years before being moved to Leesburg. When Ken inherited the collection a few years ago, he moved them to his home on Amelia Island.


Weird Florida


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