Decorating the Lake Lindsey Dinosaur: Reviving its Creator’s Dream
Most people who have traveled Lake Lindsey Road east of US 41 notice half of a dinosaur, life-sized, on the north side of the road. Often when I ask people if they know where Lake Lindsey is they look confused and respond, “maybe…” I ask them if they remember the dinosaur and suddenly their eyes light up.
“I’ve seen that.” “Weirdest thing ever.” “What happened?” “Why doesn’t someone finish it?” are common responses.
Locals tell the story of August Herwede and the infamous half-Brontosaur that my oldest son calls “Headley.” August was a man with a mission who created his art for enjoyment.
What do you do with Half a Dinosaur on Lake Lindsey Road?
Kevin Eaton grew up in Pasco County – Hudson in fact. He lives adjacent to the dinosaur and thought something should be done with the legendary beast. “For fifty years, this dinosaur sat untouched,” Kevin told me. “I thought something should be done with it. It would be nice if someone would finish the front half – if they know how to do that – but I decided to decorate it.”
In fall, 2019, Kevin and his girlfriend began decorating the inside of Headley for Halloween. They strung lights up and hung some ghosts, witches, and skeletons in the giant belly. It looked kind of odd to me.
The first week of November all the spooky stuff was put away and things went back to normal.
As Christmas approached, Kevin decided to add holiday lights, and blow-up characters, as well as a tree in the center of the dinosaur’s huge cavity. He added Christmas décor to the outside of his home, and to his neighbor’s place to the east, creating a festive location along Lake Lindsey Road.
“I’ve had people from Australia, England, Sweden, and all over stop for pictures with the dinosaur. I love to see parents bring their children for pictures. Sometimes we help children get in its belly for a picture,” Kevin said. “It brings me a lot of joy to see how much people appreciate this piece of local history.”
There have been some not so heartwarming events at the dinosaur, too.
“The first Christmas that we decorated, someone came while we were grocery shopping and cut the cords to the decorations for my house and my neighbor’s. It was very discouraging,” Kevin told us.
Steven Eaton actually owns the dinosaur. He lives on five acres behind and up the hill a bit. He offered for his brother to come and make the mobile home on his property home after his divorce.
Decorating the Dinosaur Brings Smiles
“It’s plenty for me. I try to make it better bit by bit. I am not supposed to do anything – court-ordered – so I don’t do much. Just a little here and a little there to make it nicer,” he explains. It appears well-kept, and the blow-up Christmas characters along the front of the place make it welcoming and cheery.
“I continue to decorate the dinosaur for holidays because I love to see the children smile. I thought of trying to be Santa Claus and having the kids visit, but it is just too much,” Kevin shared with us.
He walks me over to August Herwede’s unfinished masterpiece, showing me the hole in the underbelly where a ladder can be inserted to climb inside. “There are steps going down the tail,” he tells me. “This is one well-made dinosaur!”
A camera is on the dinosaur 24/7 to help ensure vandals and troublemakers don’t harm the Brontosaurus or its holiday décor. The legs are wrapped in strings of lights and a tree is in the center of the open cavity. In front are candy canes and blow-up Christmas characters are hung from the sides. It is festive and kitschy. I like it.
Where did this Lake Lindsey Dinosaur Come From?
August Herwede emigrated to the U.S. from Volkmarsen, Germany in 1924. He was a painter, a farmer, a stained-glass window maker for churches, and an interior designer who came to the Nature Coast in 1951 and built a home for himself and his wife, Augusta on an acre of land along Lake Lindsay Road.
August wanted to build an elephant, but his wife wouldn’t let him. In 1964, she passed away and he began creating his first pachyderm from plaster with canvas ears that would flap in the breeze. It was about five feet, according to Michael Marzella, a St. Petersburg Times reporter in the 1970s.
There Was a Whole Zoo
Locals, like David Ward, remember multiple dinosaurs, an elephant, a wooly mammoth, and more. “We would look at the creatures and enjoy the scenes that were created,” David reminisced with me. “I remember a Tyrannosaurs Rex, one of those spiny dinosaurs, a Stegosaurus, and a duck-billed one in a scene under Oak trees with Spanish moss hanging down. It was kind of spooky.”
In fact, August Herwede constructed 30-plus life-sized creatures, from a lion family to dinosaurs, to the 12-foot wooly mammoth with long curving tusks and tufted ‘hair’ from concrete, wood, and wire in two years!
In the mid-1970s, there were picnic tables, a totem pole, and a sign that read “See the Animals” amongst them on the acre lot that was his home.
Making the Brontosaurus
In 1966, he began the construction of his masterpiece: the Brontosaurus. This amazing statue would be built to scale, nearly sixty feet long and thirty feet tall! Like the rest of these prehistoric replicas, August’s Brontosaurus would be crafted on a wooden frame with a wire-reinforced concrete shell. It would be hollow, with access to the inside from a hole in the beast’s belly.
He dug a pit to be its swamp home at the curve on State Road 476 and began construction.
August was working on the project when he fell from the scaffolding and broke both of his legs. His neighbor, Mrs. R. A. Newell, found him and he was taken to the hospital.
“The sad part about it is the big one he never finished,” said Mrs. William Herwede, his daughter-in-law who lives in Valley Stream, N.Y. “He was going to make the whole history of the animal inside, but when he broke both legs, he knew he couldn’t finish them and had no will to live.”[i]
Everything was Removed but the half-dinosaur, a Tribute to the man who made it
She and her husband inherited the property after August Herwede died, and they tried to maintain the statuary, but weather and vandals took their toll. A drunk driver ran into the totem pole, Cypress Gardens purchased the leopard snagging a fish, a trailer park bought the lion family, and Saint Petersburg insurance executive, Charles Lenz, purchased nine of them for a miniature golf course at his Homosassa campground. The project never materialized.
By 1984, there were only seven pieces left. Some were in major disrepair. Finally, each of August’s creations was removed, except the back half of the Brontosaurus who stood silently through fifty years, until Kevin Eaton decided to bring life back to the last tribute of a man who wanted to bring joy to the world through his talents and time.
Now the Lake Lindsay half dinosaur is decorated for Christmas to bring joy to passersby. Seems like something August would be happy about. Do you agree?
See the Lake Lindsey Road Dinosaur, decorated for holidays or during regular times by driving on Lake Lindsey Road, east of US 41 about a mile on the north side of the road.
[i] Pre-history in a concrete legacy by Michael Marzella, published Sept. 23, 1976, in the St. Petersburg Times.