GRHC - November 16th, 2011
The enormous 76 foot skeleton of a fin whale awed visitors to the former Public Museum on Jefferson Ave. When the current riverfront building opened, the fully restored "Monster of the Deep" again became a centerpiece of the Museum.
For thirty-three years those entering the Public Museum, on Jefferson Ave., gazed up in awe at the enormous whale skeleton floating overhead. The whale’s identity was only established in 1994 when Dr. James Mead of the Smithsonian determined it was a fin whale. Mead said it was “one of the most complete whale skeletons he had even seen exhibited.” Measuring 76’ long, it is one of the largest mounted skeletons in the US.
In 1905 the Kent Scientific Museum appropriated $450 to purchase a portion of the Velie collection, including a “large, finely mounted whale.” Dr. Jacob Velie, of St. Joseph, wintered in Florida, and possibly acquired the skeleton there.
That same year the whale, advertised as a “Monster of the Deep”, was displayed at the West Michigan State Fair in Comstock Park. Almost 3000 people each paid 10 cents to view the bones.
For the next thirty years the whale occupied the whale barn next to the original museum building. When the new Art Deco style building opened in 1940 the whale became the centerpiece of the main hall.
In 1973, for safety reasons, the whale was taken down and dismantled, but eventually restored. Fred Meijer underwrote the restoration cost while Steelcase supplied a 40-foot semi-trailer and manpower to transport the bones to Chicago where the work was done.
With the opening of the riverfront building in 1994 the completely restored whale again became a centerpiece for the Public Museum.
|WYCE; radio; Grand Rapids; Historical Commission; history; Public Museum; fin whale;
|November 16th, 2011