Along highway I-4 between Orlando and Tampa in Florida, there is an interesting art piece that makes you want to stop and take a longer look. This art piece was created by Frank Bates, who at the time owned Bates RV in Dover, Florida.
When Frank conceived and constructed Airstream Ranch, Airstream Inc. had recently celebrated its 75th birthday. So, Frank buried 7 1/2 1957-94 vintage Airstream trailers in the vacant lot next to his dealership. There are actually 8 trailers, but one is very small. Hence the 7 1/2. Frank, being a native of Texas, was also influenced by the well-known Cadillac Ranch where 10 old Cadillacs are buried nose-down in the ground along Interstate 40.
Although many people liked Frank’s Airstream Ranch, not everyone was happy with it. Some of the neighbours voiced their concerns and went to the Hillsborough County Enforcement Board. There was a two-year battle but Frank came out on top. Larry Thompson, president of Ringling College of Art and Design testified in favour of the Airstream Ranch who said that in his “expert opinion, this constitutes a piece of art.”
When Frank won he was very excited and said, “There are not very many things you can build in your life that might be there forever – things that make people smile and make people happy.” Bates said that he hopes the work inspires thoughts of travel and freedom.
Frank is now retired and the dealership in Dover, Florida has been sold. RV1 Superstores is the new owner and the dealership is now called Tampa RV. I spoke to someone at the dealership recently and asked them about the Airstream Ranch. I was told that there are currently no plans to take down the trailers in Airstream Ranch. I was happy to hear that because I enjoy this art piece and I hope it will be around for a very long time. Thank you Frank for your work and creativity.
UPDATE: Yesterday, I drove by the Airstream Ranch and the trailers were gone. When I did a google search, I came across this news article regarding the Airstream Ranch.
I always drive by there and wonder what the trailer were about. Thank you so much for the information. 😀
Michael, Thank you for your comment on our website. Jim and I have driven by the trailers a couple of times and always said “Wouldn’t it be great to stop and photograph them?” Well, one day we actually stopped. I did a little research on the internet and came across a few newspaper acticles about the trailers and Frank Bates. This was a very interesting story so I decided to do a little more research and write an article. When Bates RV owned the property, people used to have their photographs taken there, example Engagement photos, etc. I called the new dealership the other day to confirm my facts about the new ownership and I asked the receptionist about access for photographers. She told me that there was not a way to get on the property, that photographs would have to be taken from the I-4. I did not speak to the manager so I do not know if something could be worked out or not.