Hadrosaurus – South Jersey’s Dinosaur Landmark
Haddonfield, NJ and Philadelphia, PA
Like every kid, I had a major thing for dinosaurs. I very clearly remember being 8 or 9 years old at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, wandering among the mounted dinosaur skeletons and being in total awe.
I always stopped in front of the Hadrosaurus display, and I was always blown away by how it was found in Haddonfield. I mean, that was only two towns over from me, not really where you’d expect a dinosaur to be found…
It all started in this old house in Haddonfield.
Now, there are many old houses in Haddonfield. This one (Birdwood) is special, as it was built in 1794 for a relative of the original Elizabeth Haddon. Much later, it was the home to a governor of New Jersey (incidentally, that governor’s family still own the home today). But its most special because of a Mr. Hopkins who, in the 1830s, dug up some strange bones from a nearby marl pit (marl was used as fertilizer). Twenty years later, a visitor to the house reportedly saw one of the strange bones being used as an umbrella stand at the house. The man, Mr. William Parker Foulke, happened to be a member of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, and had heard lectures about giant prehistoric creatures. Foulke asked his host where the bone had come from. The host, Mr. William Hopkins, took his guest to the place where the bone had been found. Foulke liked what he saw, and brought in a man named Joseph Leidy from the Academy…
Here, on a tributary of the Cooper River, ten feet below the surface, Leidy and Foulke discovered dozens of bones from an unknown dinosaur (a term coined about a decade before). The existence of dinosaurs had been in doubt, and this new dinosaur, the most complete skeleton found at that time, was a powerful piece of evidence. They named the dinosaur Hadrosaurus Foulkii.
Hadrosaurus became an even bigger sensation ten years later when casts of the original bones were used to make the first free standing dinosaur skeleton the world had ever seen. If was a smashing success, even if not considered particularly accurate by today’s scientific standards.
It remained a star attraction for almost 30 years, until bigger and fiercer dinosaurs like the T Rex captured the public’s imagination. Poor little duck billed Hadrosaurus became nearly forgotten, relegated to the mere trivia of history.
Then, in 1984, a kid in Haddonfield came across a mention of Hadrosaurus in an issue of National Geographic. He asked around where the bones had been discovered, but no one he talked to knew. He did some sleuthing, and discovered the location of the original dig, which was a wreck from being used as an illegal dump site for many years.
It pretty much goes without saying that this kid, Chris Brees, was a Boy Scout. He went to the the town council, rounded up some grant money, cleaned up the ravine, and had a monument to this monumental discovery placed at a spot overlooking the ravine. Chris got his Eagle Award. Today, at the end of Maple Ave in Haddonfield, you can visit this monument and walk down into the ravine where the discovery was made. The stream that runs through it? It’s now named Hadrosaurus Run.
In the early 1990s, Hadrosaurus found another champion, 4th grade teacher Joyce Berry. For several years, her 4th graders harassed the New Jersey State Legislature to properly honor Hadrosaurus’s place in history. Finally, in perhaps one of the most popular acts in New Jersey legislative history (after all, who doesn’t like dinosaurs?), the Senate and Assembly declared Hadrosaurus foulkii to be the official dinosaur of the great State of New Jersey.
In 2000, a discussion of the Haddonfield Garden Club on how to brighten up an alley took a mysterious turn for the awesome with the idea to build a lifesize statue of the Hadrosaurus. They went for it, and over $100,000 later the hard work of local sculptor John Giannotti was ready. In October 2003, over 2000 people, including several member of the Foulke family whose ancestor had discovered the original Hadrosaurus, were on hand for the unveiling.
The Hadrosaurus’s image rehab complete, the whole affair was topped off in 2008-2009 by an exhibit at the Museum of Natural History and Science in Philadelphia, the very same museum that had sponsored the original dig, entitled “Hadrosaurus foulkii: The Dinosaur That Changed the World”.
It was, easily, the best special exhibit that the museum ever had (way better than the animal poop one), an entire massive display dedicated to the mighty Hadrosaurus. While the museum has had a display on Hadrosaurus for years, they pulled out all the stops for this one.
They put out the full skeleton up and even put the original bones, which hadn’t been seen by the public in many decades, out on display. It was seriously awesome.
Visiting that exhibit was one of my early dates with my now wife, The Wife.
Fast forward a seven years. Our kid has hit the age where there is nothing cooler than a dinosaur. He often asks to go “feed the dinosaur”, which means to go see the statue and throw pennies at the dinosaur statue’s feet.
He is every bit as in awe of it as I was as a kid in the 1980s, or, I’m sure, as those kids were in 1868 looking at the first mounted dinosaur skeleton in the world.
Go for a visit:
Birdwood – 39°54’20.05″N, 75° 1’41.08″W – Hopkins Lane, Haddonfield, NJ. You can see it from a lovely hike around Hopkins Pond
Hadrosaurus Foulkii Monument – 39°54’36.93″N, 75° 1’42.80″W. Located at the dead end of Maple Ave, just off of Grove Street, in Haddonfield, NJ.
Hadrosaurus statue – 39°53’49.15″N, 75° 2’4.03″W – Lantern Lane and Kings Highway, Haddonfield, NJ
Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University (formerly the Academy of Natural Sciences)- 39°57’25.64″N, 75°10’15.96″W – 1900 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy, Philadelphia, PA 19103 – Admission – <http://www.ansp.org/>
Barlow, Connie. “America’s First Dinosaur Discovery.” The Great Story. <http://thegreatstory.org/hadrosaurus.html>
Giumetti, Deirdre. “THE HADROSAURUS FOULKII LEIDY SITE HADDONFIELD, SOUTH JERSEY.” South Jersey History and Adventures. <http://southjerseyexplorer.com/2012/07/23/the-hadrosaurus-foulkii-leidy-site-haddonfield-south-jersey/>
“Hadrosaurus foulkii”. The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University. <http://ansp.org/explore/online-exhibits/stories/hadrosaurus-foulkii/>
Hadrosaurus foulkii: The Dinosaur That Changed the World exhibit. Museum of Natural History and Science. Philadelphia, PA. January 19, 2009.
“Hadrosaurus foulkii”. New Jersey Department of Environmental Projection: Division of Water Supply and Geoscience. <http://www.state.nj.us/dep/njgs/enviroed/hadro.htm>
“History of the Town of Haddonfield.” Haddonfield Historical Society. <http://haddonfieldhistory.org/about/history-of-the-town-of-haddonfield/>
Levins, Hoag. hadrosaurus.com. <http://www.levins.com/dinosaur.shtml>
great history!! Dinosaurs are so awesome!!