Dinosaur Park in 1978 (left) and in 2003 (right)
Dinosaur Park in Rapid City, South Dakota is a place that I wanted to visit to since the first day I heard about it as a kid. It was built in 1936 to capitalize on the then new tourists coming to the Black Hills to see Mount Rushmore. The dinosaurs were designed by Emmet Sullivan and were constructed out of 2 inch black iron pipe, with a wire mesh frame and a concrete skin. Originally, they were simply painted a dull gray, but were repainted the bright green and white they still wear today since the 1950's. Dinosaur Park was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990. There are seven sculptures at the park. The five on the hill came first, with the two down near the gift shop being added years later. Six are dinosaurs (Apatosaurus, Anatotitan, Protoceratops, Stegosaurus, Triceratops, and Tyrannosaurus. There's also a Dimetrodon, which is usually mistaken as a dinosaur. Dimetrodon actually lived much earlier, back in the Permian Period, and is a synapsid, which are more closely related to mammals than to true reptiles. Two of the dinosaurs have also had name changes (corrections) since they were built. The Apatosaurus was originally named "Brontosaurus" while the Anatotitan was called "Trachodon" back in the day.
My parents visited there in 1956, and took our family there in 1978 on a road trip thru South Dakota to Colorado when I was ten years old. I finally got to revisit it 25 years later with my wife in the summer of 2003. Yes, these "cementosaurs" may not be totally accurate in this day and age, but I've completely enjoyed my two times there and hope to be able to go back there again soon.
If you'd like more info on the Dinosaur Park, HERE'S a great site with some wonderful info and pictures and a LOT of links to more sites on Dinosaur Park.
MY PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE PARK
Here are a few pictures taken by my family from our road trip out to Colorado in 1978 and my wife and I from our road trip out to California and back in 2003 - some almost in the same spot! Click on 'em for Super-Size!
My parents and myself on the Dimetrodon in 1978
Ouch! The Dimetrodon got me both visits!
Me and Kathy on the Protoceratops
Giddy up! Both photos taken in 2003
The gift shop in 2003 and Kathy with the Anatotitan
The Stegosaurus - in 1978 and 2003
Another photo of the Stegosaurus from 2003
Here's the Triceratops - 1978 on the left, 2003 on the right
Another couple photographs of the Triceratops from 2003
Me and the Apatosaurus, and the great Tyrannosaur - both photos from 1978
Some photos of the T. rex from 2003 - you can notice what's left of the teeth are painted white
When Titans Clash! - and one more shot of the Tyrannosaur - both from 2003
Kathy with the Park's original plaque from 1936 showing it was WPA Project #960. And a photo of her with the park's Apatosaurus.
Me with the 80 foot Apatosaurus from 2003
OTHER PHOTOGRAPHS OF DINOSAUR PARK (used with permission)
Here are three black and white photos taken by the Jap family from Hopkins, MN on their way thru South Dakota going out to Los Angeles, CA in 1939. Notice the dinosaurs in all three photos are still gray and not yet in their "green and white" colors.
Nice shot of the park as a whole
Great shots of the Stegosaurus and the T. rex & Triceratops battling it out
Here's seven photos in COLOR from 1952 or 1953 submitted by Lynn that are scans of slides that Lynn's dad took from one of many road trips they took. Again, you can clearly see the two-tone green/white paint and the yellow "duckbill" on the Anatotitan that was painted on it in the 1950's. I also like the shot showing the broken fingers on the T. rex. As built, it had 3 fingers on each hand. Today, the poor dinosaur's arms simply end in rounded stumps. And notice the white horns on the Triceratops. In all the other photos I've seen, they're usually painted the main color (gray or green) of the dinosaur.
Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops
Apatosaurus and Stegosaurus
Anatotitan with it's painted "bill"
Here are six black and white photos taken by John and his family from Frisco, TX from a road trip they took back circa 1956.
Original stairway up to the Stegosaurus - Posing in front of the Apatosaurus
Anatotitan and Apatosaurus
Apatosaurus and Tyrannosaurus rex
POSTCARDS AND OTHER MEMENTOS
Here's some various postcards I've collected over time from Dinosaur Park over the years and a few other items as well. I've tried to document the items as best as I can. Notice how the dinosaurs and the park itself have "changed" over time in modifications and paint jobs.
A decal purchased in 1978, and two patches (the first from 1978, the second purchased in 2003)
This Press Photograph for a newspaper was taken back in 1936 (the back of photograph is dated Nov 4, 1936) back when the park was still under construction. This could very well be one of the first photographs published of Dinosaur Park. The memo attached to the back of the photograph (at right) states the following (typos and grammar corrected):
DINOSAUR PARK 11-2-36
RAPID CITY, S.D.- ON THE SITE WHERE THE FOOT TRACKS LEFT BY THE MIGHTY DINOSAURS MILLIONS OF YEARS AGO WERE FOUND, A COMPLETE DINOSAUR PARK IS BEING BUILT ON THE SKYLINE DRIVE WITHIN THE CITY LIMITS OF RAPID CITY. THE DINOSAUR PARK, ONLY ONE IN THE UNITED STATES, WILL INCLUDE EIGHT LIFE-SIZE MODELS OF THE PREHISTORIC MONSTERS WHICH RANGED THIS REGION IN AN AGE THAT ANTE-DATES HISTORY. TWO OF THE COMPLETED MODELS ARE SHOWN HERE ON THE SITE.
Interestingly, it states eight models. The Park originally had five constructed on the hill with the Protoceratops and Dimetrodon, both near the gift shop, added much later. This photograph is a wonderful find of the Parks origins.
A couple postcard shots of the whole park. The first one was taken in 1940 (four years after the park was built), the second was a postcard purchased in 2003 (unsure of date of photo). Notice the first postcard has no trees yet in the photo. In the second postcard, the main staircase is in a completely different location, and we have the addition of the flagpole and spotlights. The Stegosaur is completely obscured by the trees on the left side of the 2003 postcard.
This is a great early vinyl postcard of the T. rex at the park (unsure of date of photo). This photo clearly shows the early grayish paintjob, even though the vinyl postcard is heavily retouched. It also shows the Tyrannosaur's complete set of teeth and three fingered hands that it had back when it was built. The thinking at the time was that Tyrannosaurs had three fingered hands, whereas know we know them now to have only two digits on their forearms.
A vintage vinyl postcard (unsure of date of photo), and another purchased in 1978 (unsure of date of photo). Notice that the T. rex had teeth in both of these photos, his hands are not yet damaged in the first photo. The white undersides make an appearance in the second photo, but the flagpole is still absent in both photographs.
Postcard purchased by a friend who visited the park in 1976 - notice the flagpole is now present in this postcard and the addition of retaining walls around the T. rex and more blacktopped/asphalted areas instead of vegetation.
The postcard on the left was purchased in 1978, and the one on the right was bought in 2003 - notice the spotlight added to the hill in the second postcard (just above the Triceratop's head in the photo).
Here's another vintage vinyl postcard, this time of just the Triceratops. You can see the dog for size comparison. I'm not sure if the red painted mouth is actually on the dinosaur, or painted onto the postcard for looks. When I visited the park in 2003, the Triceratops did in fact have a red painted mouth that year.
A vintage vinyl postcard (unsure of date of photo), but you can see even with the heavy touchup on the colors on the postcard, the dinosaurs didn't have much in terms of landscaping and pathways around them yet. And the dog from the postcard of just the Triceratops makes a second appearance here. The second card, purchased in 2003, includes most of the recent modifications, including the railings around the T. rex.
Another postcard purchased in 1978, and one purchased in 2003 - notice the T. rex has white colored toe claws in the second photo. The second postcard also shows the railings not present back in the 1970s in the first postcard.
Apatosaurus, aka "Brontosaurus," on a vintage vinyl postcard
Two postcards purchased in 1978 - notice the Apatosaurus is still called Brontosaurus in both.
Two vintage postcards (dates unknown) of the "Trachodon" - notice it's still grayish in the first black & white card, while it has a yellow "duckbill" painted on it in the second postcard.
Postcard purchased in 1978 - the Anatotitan is now in the familiar green with white underside paint - notice that it's still called Trachodon.
A postcard purchased in 1978, and one in 2003 - notice the difference in the Stegosaur's tail (the tail spikes are gone and the tail has been lengthened a great deal as well).
THE WALL DRUG DINOSAUR
And here's the Famous Wall Drug Dinosaur, also created by the same man who made the Dinosaur Park sculptures. The eyes are suppose to glow red at night. However, since I didn't get to see it at night I'm not sure if they still light up or not. These photos were also taken back in May, 2003.