by Coachella Valley | January 21, 2021 10:15 am
Mr. Bell spent more than two decades and $300,000 creating the giant creatures on an otherwise desolate stretch of Interstate 10 near Palm Springs. The dinosaurs, a 150-ton, concrete brontosaurus named Dinney and a 100-ton tyrannosaurus named Rex, can be seen for miles by travelers on the desert route between Phoenix and Los Angeles.
They were inspired by a childhood visit to Atlantic City where he saw “Lucy,” a building shaped like an elephant.
He worked at the New Jersey amusement attraction as a teen-ager, drawing figures in sand for the nickels people would toss him.
His father was a glass blower on the boardwalk and “it wasn’t long before I was making more money than my old man.” He came to California and was hired by Knott originally to build the statues in Ghost Town. Years later he also created the huge Minuteman that stands outside Independence Hall there and later ventured into the portrait studio attraction.
“The creation of the Cabazon dinosaurs began in the 1960s by Claude K. Bell (1897–1988) to attract customers to his Wheel Inn Cafe, which opened in 1958. Dinny, the first of the Cabazon dinosaurs, was started in 1964 and created over a span of eleven years. Bell created Dinny out of spare material salvaged from the construction of nearby Interstate 10 at a cost of $300,000.
The biomorphic building that was to become Dinny was first erected as steel framework over which an expanded metal grid was formed in the shape of a dinosaur. All of it was then covered with coats of shotcrete (spray concrete). Bell was quoted in 1970 as saying the 45-foot (14 m) high, 150-foot (46 m) long Dinny was “the first dinosaur in history, so far as I know, to be used as a building.” His original vision for Dinny was for the dinosaur’s eyes to glow and mouth to spit fire at night, predicting, “It’ll scare the dickens out of a lot of people driving up over the pass.” These two features, however, were not added.
A second dinosaur, Mr. Rex, was constructed near Dinny in 1981. Originally, a giant slide was installed in Rex’s tail; it was later filled in with concrete making the slide unusable. A third woolly mammoth sculpture and a prehistoric garden were drafted, but never completed due to Bell’s death in 1988″.
“The dinosaurs aren’t dead and they never will be,” Bell’s daughter, Wendy Murphy of Costa Mesa, said. “He wanted to build a monument that would withstand the sands of time, and he has done that.”
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