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Outdoor Sculpture to Commemorate Historic Fossil

By Hoag Levins ...| ...July 15, 2002

HADDONFIELD, N.J. -- One hundred forty five years after its bones were extracted from a local farmer's marl pit, Hadrosaurus foulkii will be commemorated by this
Lantern Lane
Photo: Hoag Levins.
Lantern Lane, lush with exotic grasses and flowers, will soon have a dinosaur sculpture.

Camden County town with a major work of sculpture in the middle of the business district.

Led by the Haddonfield Garden Club, a steering committee of local citizens has been organized to oversee the research, design, funding, creation and installation of a eight-foot-high, 15-foot-long bronze work.

The committee will soon select and commission an artist to create the dinosaur sculpture that will be placed in Lantern Lane, a pedestrian walkway in the center of the town's village-like collection of shops and restaurants along Kings Highway.

Year of the Dinosaur
The Haddonfield Dinosaur Sculpture Committee, which has been quietly planning its project for two years, is about to gear up its fundraising drive as well as the engineering and contract work required to install the metal sculpture and a fountain garden area on a schedule designed to celebrate 2003 as Haddonfield's "Year of the Dinosaur."

According to committee co-chair Beverly Aldeghi, Lantern Lane was selected because it is a large area in which the Haddonfield Garden Club maintains luxuriant gardens of boxwood, exotic grasses and flowers. Aldeghi, who is
Beverly Aldeghi
Photo: Hoag Levins.
Beverly Aldeghi, co-chair of the Dinosaur Sculpture Committee.

also president of the Garden Club, said that in 2000, when the group was discussing ways to improve the look of a barren cinderblock wall that runs along one side of the Lane, the idea of a sculpture garden -- and then a dinosaur sculpture -- evolved.

Aldeghi, who moved to Haddonfield ten years ago, knew nothing about the dinosaur for most of that time. "My neighbor, who was born here, told me about the local dinosaur. I went to the Maple Avenue site, read the plaque and started learning more, and I realized this was really something special," she said.

Historic beast
Both a prehistoric creature and a singularly important scientific event, Hadrosaurus foulkii was the first nearly intact skeleton of a dinosaur ever discovered. Its excavation in 1858 provided science with its first comprehensive look at the full physical structure of a type of animal whose existence had only previously been suspected.

It offered irrefutable proof that a race of gigantic beasts with the anatomical features of both lizards and birds had once roamed the earth -- the same animals that British naturalist Richard Owen speculated about in 1841 when he coined the term "dino saurs" from the Greek words for "terrible lizards."

The 1858 discovery also made Haddonfield world-famous in scientific circles throughout the closing decades of the
Photo: Hoag Levins.
Haddonfield's Hadrosaurus foulkii was the first dinosaur skeleton ever mounted for public display.

See: Finding the World's
First Dinosaur Skeleton

nineteenth century when Hadrosaurus foulkii became the first dinosaur skeleton ever mounted for public view. From 1868, when its assembled bones were put on display at the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences, until 1883, when another group of dinosaur skeletons went on display in Belgium, Hadrosaurus foulkii was the only dinosaur skeleton on display anywhere in the world.

Smithsonian Institution
Its scientific importance was considered so great in the 1870s, a full-sized copy of the Haddonfield dinosaur skeleton was put on permanent exhibit in the "castle" headquarters building of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

Despite its fame a century ago, Hadrosaurus foulkii largely faded from the public memory after the turn of the twentieth century. It was virtually unknown to residents of this Camden County town until a local Eagle Scout generated newspaper publicity in 1984 by locating the 1858 excavation site and organizing an effort to mark it with a permanent plaque. In 1991, with appropriate fanfare, the Governor signed the law declaring Hadrosaurus foulkii the official "State Dinosaur."

National Historic Landmark
When, in 1995, the National Parks Service recognized the Haddonfield dinosaur discovery site as a national historic landmark, further TV and newspaper publicity educated -- and surprised -- many locals.

"After I learned the details of Hadrosaurus foulkii, I was astounded that nothing had been done because the subject just cried out for celebration," said Jan Twitchell, co-chair of the
Jan Twitchell
Photo: Hoag Levins.
Jan Twitchell, co-chair of the Dinosaur Sculpture Committee and Haddonfield's 2002 Citizen of the Year.

Haddonfield Dinosaur Sculpture Committee which is also known as HATCH. "It is such a good thing for the town and the study of paleontology and to get our kids engaged in something as interesting as this so close to where they live."

Twitchell, who has lived in Haddonfield for 50 years, is also the town's 2002 "Citizen of the Year." She is a member and past president of the Haddonfield Garden Club and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Haddonfield Library.

Carnegie Museum
As part of her initial exploration of how best to design, construct and maintain a large dinosaur sculpture, Twitchell contacted a number of experienced institutions, including the Carnegie Museum. Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology, Dr. Mary R. Dawson, wrote her back to say she was delighted that Haddonfield was "at last doing something about your dinosaur."

"It was just another indication to me of the extraordinary historic significance of the dinosaur so few of us knew about," said Twitchell.

Why did it take Haddonfield so long to recognize its fossil treasure?

"Well, we are a historic town but maybe we've been a sleepy town in this regard in the past. But," she said with a wry smile, "we hope to change that."

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> Full-Size Hadrosaurus Rendering Unveiled
> John Giannotti Selected As Dinosaur Sculptor
> Finding the World's First Dinosaur Skeleton, 1858
> Sculpture Committee Web Site
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