Tommy the Turtle saw a sky for the first time since 2016.
On a rainy Friday morning, city staff moved the hefty, 1,400-lb concrete turtle installation, Tommy the Turtle, from city storage to Kennydale Beach Park. Community leaders and staff were present at the event, including Renton Capital Projects Coordinator Betsy Severtsen. This was her first public project with the city.
Tommy was previously displayed at the Renton Highlands Library, and went to storage when the library was moved. After the new library and park were designed, staff determined there wasn’t a good spot for Tommy with the other fixtures planned. Severtsen said there has to be ample safety space around the turtle, which also serves as a structure for kids to climb on. The Renton Municipal Arts Commission and the city worked together to decide on moving the sculpture to the beach.
Although Tommy has been alone for several years in storage, it has many friends throughout the world. A Facebook page, “Tommy the Turtle of Bowie,” is dedicated to cataloguing the Tommys that remain in Pennsylvania, New York, Washington D.C., Kansas, Puerto Rico and more, after a Tommy in Bowie, Maryland was destroyed during construction.
The turtles are believed to be designed by Milton Hebald, and sold as a play structure in the mid-50s and 60s. A catalogue from a 1950’s-era Creative Playthings shows Tommy as well.
Newspaper clippings from the Renton Chronicle show likely the same Tommy we have today in a photo from 1960 of the Renton Shopping Center, next to a Sears. An article in the June 2006 Renton Historical Quarterly explains that when Sears left in 1980, the downtown shopping center (now Fred Meyers Plaza) donated Tommy and a dolphin statue to city of Renton. The dolphin, Flipper, was moved to Henry Moses Aquatic Center and Tommy was moved to Highlands Library.