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The eagle has landed (again) at L.A.'s Natural History Museum

June 30, 2009 |  1:10 pm


Eagle

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County finally has its eagle statue back, and it took only 89 years.

When the museum first opened in 1913, a 6-foot eagle statue stood patriotically atop the main building entrance, which faces east and overlooks Exposition Park. But the magnificent statue was not long for this world. On June 20, 1920, a "rather violent earthquake" caused part of the eagle to break off and crash onto the steps below, according to archival documents.

For several months, "part of the broken wing stayed in place, swinging in the wind and terrifying visitors going up the steps." The museum eventually removed the remnants of the statue, and the building has remained eagle-less ever since.

Today, the museum unveiled its new eagle statue, sitting approximately 50 feet high in the spot where its ill-fated predecessor was perched. At 6 feet tall and with a wing span of 7 feet, the bird was built entirely from scratch by San Pedro sculptor Mike Hosch.

Eagle1 Photographic evidence of the original eagle is scarce, but the museum has a few black-and-white long-shot photos of the bird, which it gave to Hosch so he could replicate the general design. The new eagle, cast at Moonlight Molds in Gardena, is made of terra cotta like the original, but it also has fiber reinforcement and an internal steel skeleton to strengthen it against future earthquakes.  The bird actually floats a few inches above its perch and is supported by a steel beam welded to the structural frame of the building. (The original sat precariously on the building with little structural support.)

The new eagle took a year and a half to plan and build at a cost of $75,000, according to Don Webb, a project manager overseeing the museum's ongoing renovations.

Culture Monster took a ride to the top of the museum today for an up-close encounter with the statue. While we were there, we noticed that the construction crew had welded a U.S. quarter to the bird's forehead -- eagle side up, of course.

Below are more impressive shots of the museum's latest addition.

-- David Ng

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Photos: The Natural History Museum's new eagle statue. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

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