Will Farrow moved the Dinosaur to Bayville in 1935. Who built it? No one knows.
Will Farrow moved the Dinosaur to Bayville in 1935. Who built it? No one knows.

The Bayville Dinosaur

Field review by the editors.

Bayville, New Jersey

In general, Earth's creatures have had unhappy experiences with people. Not the Bayville Dinosaur. Although made of concrete, the junior-size saurian would have gone the way of the real dinosaurs, decades ago, if not for frequent rescues by sympathetic humans.

The Dinosaur today has a serpentine neck to keep its head out of traffic.
The Dinosaur today has a serpentine neck to keep its head out of traffic.

The Dinosaur -- or part of it, anyway -- is nearly 100 years old: possibly the oldest dinosaur statue in America. It has outlived multiple owners, artists, and newspapers that have chronicled its evolution, calamities, and resurrections.

The earliest mention of the dinosaur (Red Bank Register, October 3, 1935) links it to the 1920s Hollywood film, The Lost World, famous for its stop-motion prehistoric monsters. "I think they used it as a prop outside a movie theater," said Steve Baeli, a Bayville historian who's spent years tracking the Dinosaur's lengthy lifespan.

Tourists pose with the Dinosaur circa 1945.
Tourists pose with the Dinosaur circa 1945.

A retired firefighter named Eugene Danancher acquired the Dinosaur and placed it outside his small roadhouse on New Jersey's Route 9 -- a main highway along the Jersey Shore. He apparently felt that a 25-foot-long, 10-foot-high dinosaur would attract passing motorists, even if it had nothing to do with his business.

Will Farrow, a Bayville taxidermist, often drove past the Dinosaur and finally decided to stop. "It turned out that Mr. Danancher had just died," said Steve. "And the wife was, like, 'Please get that thing out of my yard.' I think Farrow paid 5 or 10 dollars for it."

That was in 1935. Farrow moved the Dinosaur south on Route 9 to stand outside his Bayville taxidermy shop. The shop is long gone, but the Dinosaur has been in the same spot ever since.

The Dinosaur's
The Dinosaur's "Ruggles" head was stolen in 1998 and hasn't been seen since.

Using paint, Farrow turned the Dinosaur into a billboard for his business, the first of several owners to do so. He then added spikes to the Dinosaur's back, green light bulbs for eyes, and a red light bulb in its open mouth. According to Farrow's daughter, he also accessorized the Dinosaur with a live monkey. "People would stop at the dinosaur and the monkey would steal their hats," said Steve. "Then they'd have to go into the store to get their hats back."

Visitors probably disliked the monkey, but they loved the Dinosaur. Standing almost exactly midway between New York City and Atlantic City, it was a popular landmark on a heavily traveled road, and a novelty on the East Coast, which was not known for roadside dinosaurs (Unlike the West). Fred Brzozowski, one of its later owners, told a reporter in 1974, "I couldn't get rid of it now if I wanted to. The people would hang me the next day."

Motorists have passed the Dinosaur on this roadside spot for over 85 years.
Motorists have passed the Dinosaur on this roadside spot for over 85 years.

The Bayville Dinosaur entered a dangerous phase in the 1970s, when the building behind it was enlarged to fill the entire block, pushing the statue closer to the highway. Its long neck made the Dinosaur's head a frequent victim of careless trucks. Local reporters documented at least eight separate Dinosaur decapitations. "It kept getting hit; that was the problem," said Steve. Sometimes the head was reattached, sometimes it was replaced with an entirely different head. One time it was stolen and never seen again (It weighed 300 pounds).

Its official name is
Its official name is "Bud," but no one in Bayville calls it that.

In 2015, with the Dinosaur's latest head smashed, its neck cracked, and the building abandoned, Bayville stepped in to save it. "People really cared about that Dinosaur," said Steve. "We raised almost $20,000." Modifications over the years had drastically altered the statue -- all that remains of the 1920s original is the wood skeleton in the middle -- so the Dinosaur's proposed new design was a subject of much debate. "We had meetings about it at the historical society," said Steve. "People would say, 'I remember it looking like this" -- referring to an old photograph -- "and I liked it much better.'"

In late 2018 a trio of artists re-engineered the Dinosaur into a compromise between its original style and the way dinosaurs are thought to look today: no spikes, but with illuminated eyes, a dignified bronze finish, and a serpentine neck that bends its head away from traffic. It was named "Bud" for a member of the historical society, the latest in a series of official Dinosaur names that everyone pretty much ignores in Bayville. "Back when it was rug store they named it 'Ruggles,'" said Steve. Local people, he said, just call it DEE-no.

Whatever its name, the Dinosaur now seems sturdy enough to survive well into its second century. And when it does start to crumble and its head falls off, a new generation in Bayville will probably remake the Dinosaur yet again, in whatever way they think is best.

Because they love it.

Also see: One Nation Under Dinosaurs

The Bayville Dinosaur

Heritage Square

Address:
510 US-9, Bayville, NJ
Directions:
Heritage Square. On the west side of US-9/Atlantic City Blvd, four miles south of Toms River, and just north of a church graveyard.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Big Champagne BottleBig Champagne Bottle, Bayville, NJ - < 1 mi.
Cosmos Tow Truck on RoofCosmos Tow Truck on Roof, Bayville, NJ - 1 mi.
Diner DinosaurDiner Dinosaur, Beachwood, NJ - 2 mi.
In the region:
Paranormal Museum and Bookstore, Asbury Park, NJ - 22 mi.

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