SEASIDE -The Seaside Aquarium, one of the oldest privately owned aquariums in the world and the first to breed harbor seals, will be celebrating its 70th anniversary from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, May 25, by reverting to its 1937 admission rates of 15 cents per adult and 10 cents per child. Other celebrations marking the anniversary will run throughout the year.
Spend the day with the staff of the aquarium and enjoy the special historic displays and refreshments. There will also be some giveaways, which include a chance to win a behind-the-scenes tour of the historic aquarium building. That tour will include the upstairs area, which was an apartment building until the '70s; it is now a rather spooky, atmospheric treasure trove of old fixtures and remnants of times long gone.
The aquarium is also asking the public to contribute their stories and photos to the party. "Bring your camera and take part in special photographic opportunities only available at this event," said general manager Keith Chandler. "We've dug up dozens and dozens of interesting photos and objects from the aquarium's past 70 years. But we're also asking the public to provide us with more."
Chandler said the public can join in the celebration by sending in photographs and stories of themselves and their family at the aquarium. The aquarium will compile selected photographs and stories into a scrapbook to be displayed inside the aquarium. "We feel that our customers have just as much to do with the history of the aquarium as the aquarium itself," Chandler said.
Mail photographs and/or stories to Seaside Aquarium, 200 N. Prom, Seaside, OR 97138 or e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org
The Seaside Aquarium was actually a natatorium in the '20s, until the Depression killed its economic feasibility in the early '30s. This was a warm, saltwater public bath, with water pumped in from the sea through a pipe (still visible today at the tide line) and then heated. Around the walls were balconies so people could watch others swim in the pool below. For a time, the place served as a salmon rearing facility, and then a place to watch wrestling matches.
The aquarium was started in 1937, making it one of the oldest in the entire nation. Originally it was managed by George and Greta Smith, who became owners after the first two years and were then solely responsible for the aquarium's success. The aquarium was built over the old natatorium swimming pool, and part of that pool system still exists today. The seal tank is in the same area that the children's pool was located, although it has been extensively modified over the many years.
The Seaside Aquarium's most shining historic accomplishment is Flipper, a speckled harbor seal that gave birth to a 19-pound pup in June of 1952. In January of 1964, the New York Aquarium claimed to have had the first harbor seal born in captivity, but this was retracted since the Seaside Aquarium had successfully bred 11 harbor seal pups by that date.
For those lucky enough to get the tour, in the back is a labyrinth of wooden structures, walkways above, corridors of tanks and other functional equipment. All around are ancient keepsakes of the aquarium's history, many of them quite amusing in their cultural naiveté. One highlight is a sign about Clara the seal, who had a disfigured eye. The sign states she was in no pain, and that one of her favorite tricks was to put her flippers to her mouth, showing tourists she wanted to be fed. In the engaging apartment area above are old-style sinks, bathtubs and Murphy beds dating as far back as the '30s.
The Seaside Aquarium has been a part of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network since 1995, assisting North Coast officials in rescuing beached animals or fish in distress, aiding scientific research on stranded marine creatures and helping to make sure the public stays away from seal pups resting on the beach. In recent years, this role has garnered the aquarium and Seaside some national and international publicity, with media from as far away as Japan and Africa interviewing them about some of their unique finds.
Seaside Aquarium is located at 200 N. Prom on the Promenade in Seaside. For more information, call (503) 738-6211 or visit www.seasideaquarium.com