Seaside Aquarium Celebrates 70 Years of Family Fun
The Seaside Aquarium is the oldest privately owned aquarium on the west coast. A variety of
festivities will help the aquarium mark its 70th year, starting with a celebration Memorial Day
weekend. On Friday May 25, the Aquarium will offer original admission prices: 15 cents for
adults and 10 cents for children. Ask the aquarium staff about other upcoming events.
Built for Swimming
The aquarium originally opened as Viggers’ Seaside
Baths and Natatorium, a salt-water swimming pool, in
1924. There was a fountain in the shallow end large
enough for multiple people to sit or stand on. Boilers kept
water temperatures between 70 and 80 degrees for the
main pool that held 160,000 gallons of salt water. A
smaller kiddie pool existed in the front. At that time there
were two natatoriums in Seaside, the other at the
Turnaround where TrendWest now stands. During the
depression Viggers’ Natatorium closed.
A Fresh Start
On Memorial Day weekend of 1937, the Seaside
Aquarium opened in a refurbished building. The floor of
the exhibit area rested on top of the old pool, with the
shallow end at the west side, sloping down to a deep end
that housed the aquarium’s filters. The octaganal tank in the
center of the main room was all that remained of the fountain.
Opening the Seaside Aquarium was a joint venture
of George P. Smith, Harry T. Kent, and Frederick J.
Newman, led by H.L. Collins. Collins had previously
opened the Depoe Bay Aquarium. First noteworthy
displays included an anemone tank, a large tidepool
display, and an octopus, but seals soon became the stars
of the show.
Addition of Seals
In the 1940’s baby seals left on the beach were
mistakenly believed abandoned. The aquarium took in
these waifs left to fend for themselves, a practice that
was halted with increased knowledge of seal behavior
and the implementation of the Marine Mammal Protection
Act. Now, the aquarium’s seals are bred in captivity, as
they have been for fifty-five years.
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- 1924 Viggers’ Seaside Baths and Natatorium
- 1926 In the off season, natatorium doubles as a
holding tank for an experiment to raise silver
salmon in salt water.
- 1931 Natatorium closes.
- 1937 Seaside Aquarium opens.
- Mid 1940s Aquarium acquires seals.
- 1952 Flipper the Seal conceives and gives birth
to Flapper at the aquarium. First instance of a
seal being conceived and born in captivity.
- 1967 Beluga whale held at the aquarium.
- 1978 Last seal taken in from the wild. Jenny
becomes part of the aquarium family as a favor
to the National Marine Fisheries Service.
- 1994 Victor the Lobster kidnapped.
- 1995 Interpretive Center opens in aquarium.
- 1995 Seaside Aquarium becomes north coast
responder for the Marine Mammal Stranding
- 1996 Aquarium helps launch Seaside’s Watershed
Estuary Beach Discovery Program.
- 1998 Aquarium adds gray whale skeleton to