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DOWNTOWN DINOSAUR – T. Rex Head Installed on Exterior of Centre Market Store

A giant fiberglass Tyrannosaurus rex head hovers above the street from a second floor window of the SMART Centre Market interactive science center.

WHEELING — Visitors to Wheeling’s Centre Market might be surprised to see a giant fiberglass Tyrannosaurus rex head protruding from a second floor window of the SMART Centre Market interactive science center.

Robert and Libby Strong, owners of the SMART Centre, had the five-foot-long dinosaur head installed in a window above their store this past Sunday following months of planning. Libby Strong said the idea for mounting the model on the exterior of their shop originated when they visited the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis several years ago and saw a life-size dinosaur model placed against the exterior of the building as if it were attempting to break through the windows to get inside. She said the project has been a rather lengthy process that began last summer.

The Strongs decided to purchase the dinosaur head fabricated out of fiberglass, made by Enchanted Castle Studios of Natural Bridge, Virginia, at a cost of $3,500 after receiving a “certificate of appropriateness” to place the T. rex head on the exterior of the building from the Wheeling Historic Landmarks Commission last August and receiving permission from their landlord.

The Strongs also received $5,257 to put towards the project after winning the “Show of Hands” event sponsored by the Wheeling Heritage organization in October.

Strong said the T. rex figure was firmly secured to the frame of the window when it was installed this past weekend. She said the actual mounting materials that set inside the building is actually much heavier than the fiberglass head itself and they “engineered” the mounting materials so it is completely secure.

“That thing’s going nowhere,” Strong said.

She said local contractor Jon Smith and his son, Derrick, did the actual installation Sunday afternoon as several people including a few children watched from a safe distance on the sidewalk across the street. She said it was cute to see two children wearing their little play hard hats while sitting in chairs across street.

“Everything fit in just perfect,” She added.

The Strongs, who will be celebrating their 10th anniversary at the Centre Market location this April, believe the T. rex head is just another unique way to help draw people to the Centre Market district of Wheeling.

“I think it will be a great landmark for Centre Market,” Strong said. “Hopefully it will be something to help bring folks down to historic Centre Market and realize all the great gift shops and food and everything you can get here.”

In addition, two brand new SMART Centre Market signs created by Ultimate Signs of Martins Ferry were also placed on the exterior of the building as part of the project. Strong said local artist Amanda Carney of Cat’s Paw Art Studio in Centre Market also painted the board surrounding the the figure to appear as the dinosaur was breaking through the actual window. The Strongs also asked Carney to change the eye color on the figure to stand out more because the Strongs felt the eyes originally appeared too “human-like.”

SMART Centre Market will be hosting a “How Big Was the T. Rex?” science demonstration beginning at 1 p.m., Saturday, to coincide with the installation of the new figure. It is free to the public.

Joselyn King contributed to this story

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