Dino Update: Louisville’s Triceratops Once a Traveling Celebrity

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    Dinoland.
    Dinoland.
    Dinoland.
    Sinclair Dinoland.

    We noted in June that the dinosaur once located behind the Louisville Science Center was found three-and-a-half years later hiding out in Park Hill, but a keen eyed commenter noted that there’s more to the story. It turns out Louisville’s Triceratops is quite the celebrity, appearing in the Sinclair oil company Dinoland exhibition at the New York Worlds Fair in 1964 and 1965 (and on the cover of a book on the subject). That could be him up in that drawing above.

    The dinosaur when it was located Downtown. (Branden Klayko)
    The dinosaur when it was located Downtown. (Branden Klayko)

    According to a brochure on the display, “Life-size replicas of nine different types of dinosaurs are shown…as life-like and authentic as modern science and painstaking research can make it.” Other dinosaurs included a 70-foot-long Brontosaurus, a Tyrannosaurus, and a duck-billed Trachodon. Each was created by animal sculptor Louis Paul Jonas. There were actually two Triceratops at the fair, the larger of which is now located at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.

    After the fair, the dinosaurs hit the road for a nine-month tour, visiting 40 shopping center parking lots in 18 states. After two subsequent tours, the dinosaurs were distributed across the country from Texas to Utah to Wisconsin, many ending up as roadside attractions.

    In a speech at the opening of Dinoland, Robert Moses, the famous highway builder from New York among other distinctions, remarked on the future of transportation as viewed from the 1960s: “Perhaps we are rubber rather than rail people. We make no apology for that either, but certainly companies like Sinclair are the ones we have had to look to, to solve the transportation problems of the United States.” From the outset, the dinosaurs of the ’64 world’s fair betrayed the fair’s idealistic ambitions, and in Louisville, continued to prove ironic sitting next to the elevated riverfront expressway.

    Sinclair oil is still around today, but there are no locations in Kentucky or Indiana.

    Branden Klayko

    Founder and Editor at Broken Sidewalk
    Branden is a writer and architectural designer living in Brooklyn. After graduating from the College of Architecture at Washington University in St. Louis, Branden practiced architecture in Louisville where he worked on several large LEED Certified buildings. Branden is the senior web editor at The Architect’s Newspaper, where he covers architecture, design, and urbanism. He has also written about design for Designers & Books, sustainability for Inhabitat, and architecture for the American Institute of Architects. He founded Broken Sidewalk in 2007, an online collaborative promoting architecture and urbanism in Louisville, Kentucky and the Midwest.

    5 COMMENTS

    1. Am I mistaken, or wasn’t ours once at the Zoo a long time ago as well, beside the train tracks? It’s funny to mention the one in D.C. – I remember seeing that one too (and riding it) when my family visited the Mall every couple of years back in the seventies. I’m pretty sure it was in front of the Natural History Museum.

    2. I remember going to see these at the mall in St. Matthews in the 60s. The brontosaurus was huge! They had machines that, for some change, would mold a little plastic souvenir for you. I remember the warm plastic-smelling toy falling out into my hot little hands.

    3. And let’s not forget the animated animals that were once housed at the Science Museum (now Louisville Science Center) at 727 W. Main. The Landmarks Commission’s office was on the top floor of that building, near the Office of Community Development. There was a light well that allowed sound to travel from the 1st floor of the Science Museum up to the top floor. The thing was that the dinosaurs would moan periodically. They were quite loud! When I first started working in that building in 1983, I just thought it was weird. After awhile I got used to it. However, it was always a bit awkward to try to explain what the noise was in the background of phone converstations with John Q. Public. It did make life interesting.

    4. I too remember going to see this display at The Mall. Don’t recall the details but this reminds me somewhat of the days when gas stations would give away stuff with a gas purchase. Still have my Texaco Fire Chief helmet.

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