How It All Began
Prehistoric Gardens is the vision of the late E.V. “Ernie” Nelson – artist, sculptor, entrepreneur, and dinosaur enthusiast. Here is his journey…
In 1953 after working as a CPA and owning a mill machinery supply business, Nelson packed up the family and headed south from Eugene, Oregon to find a location to build his Dinosaur Park. He settled on a prehistoric rainforest on the Southern Oregon Coast and began the building process. After three years of construction, one trip to the Smithsonian in NYC and endless research to ensure the life-size replicas were scientifically correct, Nelson opened his Prehistoric Gardens on January 1st 1955. He would go on to construct 23 dinosaurs in total over the next 30 years.
The Construction Process
Each dinosaur replica began with a sturdy steel frame, followed by the placement of mesh-like metal lath. Then came the sculpting in which Nelson used concrete to cover the lath to give the creature its basic rough form. Next he floated the final layer of concrete to create definition and then hand-painted based on scientific research. Each recreation yielded its own set of challenges and engineering feats. The Brachiosaurs alone took 4 years to complete and was constructed on site using scaffolding. At 86 feet long and 46 feet tall, this massive sculpture is a work of art and was Mr. Nelson’s pride and joy!
The park remains in the family and strives to continue on the legacy and dream of Mr. Nelson – to create a place where young and old can discover the past by stepping back in time to a Land of Long Ago…