The Tacoma Sun

LIGHT FOR ALL
 

Tacoma Underground: Never Never Land Figures

By Morgan Alexander

Strange things lurk in Tacoma’s Underground!

Imagine walking into a dank dark basement in a 110 year old building downtown and turning on the lights to find this eerie and surreal scene. That’s what happened to me recently while working on an interview for a Sun story. This is what I saw:

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published February 15th, 2008

73 responses so far ↓

  • 1 KevinFreitas // Feb 15, 2008 at 7:44 am

    Wow, great shots tho I may not be able to sleep now. Eek!

  • 2 RR Anderson // Feb 15, 2008 at 9:53 am

    My god man. They’re sitting on a gold mine! How can I get one of those figures for my yard?

  • 3 RR Anderson // Feb 15, 2008 at 9:56 am

    How much for the white chickens?

  • 4 TacomaGnome // Feb 15, 2008 at 10:35 am

    Truly a find, Mr. Morgan.

    The history there. Wow. The Three Little Pigs were carved after 1933, but it doesn’t look like it was much afterwards.

    Congratulations. Tacoma waits the story.

  • 5 John Moltz // Feb 15, 2008 at 10:42 am

    Wh-why… why are they all SCREAMING?!

    Don’t you hear it?!

    AAAAAIIIIIIEEEEE!!!

  • 6 Bill Barnett // Feb 15, 2008 at 11:41 am

    They won’t come to life and start walking around downtown if exposed to sunlight will they?

  • 7 Andrew Austin // Feb 15, 2008 at 11:41 am

    A little creepy I must say…I’m excited to see the story.

  • 8 Erik Bjornson // Feb 15, 2008 at 2:09 pm

    The expressions are creepy when the are set out this way. Don’t miss the larger sized Pie Maker in Capers.

  • 9 julie // Feb 16, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    lets make a display of them in the urbanX window for the daffodil festival attendees to view…

  • 10 julie // Feb 16, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    PS/ i would permanently display a small one somewhere in the store if you are interested….maybe a sheep or a little animal. Make urbanX more of a tacoma experience.

  • 11 julie // Feb 16, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    WA state history museum should have most of them?

  • 12 Steve // Feb 17, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    WOW, does this ever take me back! I haven’t been to the Point for a while but I remember last time I was there & strolled through the forgotten Never Never (possibly ever) Land. Too bad it got vandalized.

    BTW: Sayin’ hi to Kevin. We gotta meet some day. I hear you’re a dynamic designer!

  • 13 Erik Bjornson // Feb 17, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    lets make a display of them in the urbanX window for the daffodil festival attendees to view…

    There you go. You could dress them up too!

  • 14 Kenny // Mar 31, 2008 at 4:41 pm

    When is the article going to be online?

  • 15 Morgan Alexander // Apr 10, 2008 at 10:20 am

    The accompanying article to these photos has been postponed indefinitely, sorry.

  • 16 Alice W // Jun 17, 2008 at 6:49 am

    This is great to see that they are “safe”.

  • 17 Eunice G // Jun 18, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    They belong where another generation of children can see them. If the woods, sadly, aren’t safe anymore, can anyone think of another venue for them to come to life again? Not a historical display, but a living storybook!

  • 18 Morgan Alexander // Jun 20, 2008 at 9:40 am

    The owner is open to selling them- but they aren’t cheap. They are custom made figures – fiberglass I think – and each one was hand painted. There was talk with Metro Parks and also the Children’s Museum, but their interest wasn’t deep and the talks didn’t go anywhere. If the community came up with a convincing use and arguement for re-using the figures, I’m sure the owner would be open to ideas.

  • 19 kimberlee // Jun 23, 2008 at 8:47 am

    They really should do something with them and make a positive impact. I think using them for the Daffodil Festival is a great idea. Float anyone?

  • 20 Alice // Jun 27, 2008 at 7:16 am

    I found some of my pics from Never Never Land and have posted them on flickr.

  • 21 Vickie // Jul 16, 2008 at 8:34 am

    So sad to see the demise of Never Never Land.
    My family went every year when I was little to picnic and see the sights at Point Defiance. I am glad that I took my children to see it all (and take pictures of them there) before it was trashed and vandalized. It is missed greatly…

  • 22 Tarin // Aug 22, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    I was wondering if anyone had any contact info for the owners of the figurines? I am interested in purchasing one. Thanks!

  • 23 Nina // Sep 6, 2008 at 10:24 am

    Thank you all so much! Especially Morgan for the pictures. I lived here in the late 60’s-early 70’s and have carried loving memories of Never Never Land throughout my life. I came through Seattle in 1990 and didn’t have time to see much but HAD to make time for NNL. It was in sad shape then but I was very excited to see it. I came with my husband this week and we went looking for it. They were working on the 5-mile loop and we couldn’t get to it. The workers we talked to told us about it’s current condition and I was kinda glad we couldn’t see it. We “googled” it today to see the old pictures and I found you, too.

    I will always cherish my memories of NNL. I am so glad there are others who cherish it too and are wanting to preserve the memory!

    God Bless!

  • 24 Morgan Alexander // Sep 6, 2008 at 10:16 pm

    Tarin: the owner is open to offers. Personally, I would like to see the collection kept complete and in a place with public access.

  • 25 Pegsterdtown // Sep 16, 2008 at 11:12 pm

    Oh the bittersweet memories of a time gone by… I think that it would be wonderful to have them in the Childrens Museum. I think that these figurines should be in a place where all children, present, and past could enjoy them.

  • 26 Kasei Otis // Sep 26, 2008 at 10:41 am

    Why not do something with them at the Children’s Hospital. I know several Hospitals that have collectors peices throughout their hallways on stands with a thick type case over them. Just and Idea.

  • 27 Debbie // Oct 4, 2008 at 10:53 am

    They all look in pain & terified. Ithink someone should get the heart to fix them and put them back for the children. The things some of you people are saying is very awful & thoughtless, “how much do u want”, “i’ll take the chicken”, & “put them on a display in a museum” who would wont to see that on display, that would be depressing. Personally I havent been there when it was nice, but, i’ve seen photos & heard stories it sounds wonderful, But, now it just makes me sick, & you people wanting to buy them for your own happiness, that’s just selfish, I’d replace them where they were if I could get ahold of them.
    -Debbie

  • 28 Debbie // Oct 4, 2008 at 11:08 am

    P.S.Latly ive been pasing by there and there building something. Also i went on the Point Defiance web site and they dont have it on there anymore. I really wish there wear something i could do to “resurect” it but I’m only 18 theres not much i could do especially since i didn’t have any memories there.

  • 29 Morgan Alexander // Oct 16, 2008 at 9:34 pm

    Oh! I forgot to pass this info along: the artist who did the figures was Elek Imredy: http://aabc.bc.ca/access/aabc/archbc/display/CVAN-668

    He was originally from Budapest, Hungary. In 1957, he moved to Vancouver BC, where you can see more of his work in bronze and other mediums. He was a professional sculptor until his death in November 1994.

    Girl in wetsuit: http://www.drfphoto.com/photo/2387/

  • 30 Dave L. // Oct 31, 2008 at 2:50 am

    What a collection, and so valuable – not as much from a monetary standpoint but from a historical standpoint, and such a complete collection of the sculptor’s under-appreciated work. I share Debbie’s passion (above) on this 100%. I hope the owner has the opportunity to do what would benefit the comminity and honor the artist, and pay tribute to and a fairly recent Tacoma History.

  • 31 Paulie // Nov 20, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    Add me to the “Keep them together, and shame on people for wanting ‘that one piece'” Chorus.

    I was talking to a woman today who said that some of the figures would be permanently removed as they were “Not Politically Correct” – Dear god…

    PS – does anyone else remember the little mailboxes you got to open to read the poems inside? Have the history museum do an exhibition of them, and a photo book. I’d buy it in a NY minute.

  • 32 Aaron // Dec 29, 2008 at 9:32 pm

    This is an incredible collection. They are family and should remain together.

    That’s my vote.

  • 33 Aaron // Dec 29, 2008 at 9:33 pm

    This is an incredible collection. They are family and should remain together.

    That’s my vote. http://www.vipteamwa.com

  • 34 sarah sarah // Dec 31, 2008 at 12:14 am

    i use to come here as a child, and for some reason one night i remembered never never land… me and my cousin use to go there and i reamember how fun it was to walk down the trails and eat and watch plays and see all the characters and go in there houses!!! that was the fun of it all. so i looked for it and sadly found that it was vandilized!!! i cant believe people could do such a thing! And when i saw these pics it was a lil creepy… i still want to go see whats left.. i told my cousin and she saw the pics too we had such a memorable night.. it is sad it may not ever be replaced??? i know that u cannot stop mother nature. and people from destroying in thoses woods.. but couldnt they put it in a building with woods just like it was they can even have paid admission to keep it runnin!!!!! and the history on a board i know lots of people would come!!! and it can be made woodsy and safe in a building!!!!

  • 35 Brett Tousley // Mar 10, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    Wow it’s really nice to see them in such good condition! I remember visiting Never Never Land many times as a small child, what a shame that todays kids don’t have the same opportunity when visiting Point Defiance.

    A visit to Tacoma always involved Never Never Land, Fort Nisqually, the Zoo and the B&I to see Ivan.

    Simpler times in Tacoma I guess?

  • 36 Lori Haun // Apr 21, 2009 at 6:40 pm

    Did the nursery rhymes or stories get saved as well with the statues? Can someone take pictures of the place now and compare them with back when it first opened? I would love to see someone help preserve the memories if at least in photos of all the statues. It is sad and such a tragedy for them not to be there. Can someone make a new Never Never Land? I am more than willing to help.

  • 37 mysterious person // May 3, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    r u effing kidding me? if u think this is such a nerdy website than why are u looking at it and leaving comments huh? why did u even type this in to find this website i think a certain some one needs to get a life

  • 38 Cheryl // May 25, 2009 at 1:59 am

    I LOVED NNL-

  • 39 Cheryl Fuller // May 25, 2009 at 2:03 am

    I went to NNL as a child an unknown number of times- at LEAST once every summer. I have taken both my boys there on numerous occassions too. I wish something could be done to bring it (or something similar) back. It was such an exciting, Magical place/trip. We miss it VERY MUCH!!

  • 40 Dave_L // Jun 17, 2009 at 1:30 am

    Cheryl Siegel, Librarian at the Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, BC kindly offered this additional information:

    “When I first looked at these works, I was ready to dismiss them as Imredy’s work. He works primarily in wood or bronze and I’d never seen a painted sculpture by him. What an interesting find! In the book called “The Sculpture of Elek Imredy” there are illustrations of some of the “Nursery Rhyme Characters”. Here is the text from an interview with Ilek Imredy :

    ‘In 1965, I had two different commissions to make a series of nursery rhyme characters, Jack and Hill, Little Bo-Peep, Mary in her garden and so forth. Each set had about 40 life size figures all brightly painted. They were made for amusement parks in Washington State and on Vancouver Island. Both places are now closed and I don’t know where the figures got to. These figures were primarily for young children, and they can be the most discerning of all critics! (a smile) But when I do a job, I try to do my best and that is what I did here also. I am a professional sculptor.’

    In the book the sculptures are illustrated with the notation –“Location Unknown”. You seem to have solved a mystery! ”

    I hope the importance of these works will continue to be understood and appreciated. Many thanks to the staff at the Vancouver Art Gallery for answering my inquiry. http://www.vanartgallery.bc.ca/

    P.S. – According to Cheryl, Peggy Imredy still resides in Vancouver, BC.

  • 41 casey // Jul 2, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    i wrote the city and people in charge of point defiance on how they should bring the park back and make it better than ever. i would pay to visit. i wish i could bring my kids to it (how it use to be). now its very sad. a couple of trails and dilapidated small toy houses. i was always excited when i was younger to go. it was magical i agree.

  • 42 Bill Barnett // Sep 7, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    Morgan – is it possible to see these statues? I have a friend who would love to see them.

  • 43 Traci // Nov 7, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    Hi Mr. Alexander, I was wondering where these figurines are? I remember some of my fondest memories of the Point were going to never never land with my grandma and granpa now both dead I would love to contact this owner to buy the billy goats gruff because I was enthralled by them when I walked through the never never land exhibit. I hate that they are sitting around in some dusty basement and I’d love to give one of them a new home. It sounds stupid but it would make me really happy. So if you have contact info – on the owner just let me know and I’d follow up from there. thx

  • 44 joni // Jan 1, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    i loved never never land it is a special place in my heart, my grandparents would take me and my 2 sisters every summer, we each had our favorite ryhme. I still have my never never land piggy bank with humpty sitting on the stack of books. are any of these for sale and how much?

  • 45 Ashley Melander // Mar 23, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    I thought of a terrific idea today. How about replacing new and old never never land statues in North West Trek in Tacoma,WA. This would be a great location where families could visit the once loved statues and nursey rhymes. North West Trek has outdoor picnic tables and parks where children can run and play. Its located in the woods just like the old park and the statues would not be as easily vandalized.

  • 46 Ashley Melander // Mar 23, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    If anyone feels this is a great idea or would like to help and get this going send me a email at ashley-melander@comcast.net.

    thanks for reading. lets get the once loved nursey rhymed statues back to where the kids can play and enjoy. : )

  • 47 sari // Jun 14, 2010 at 9:33 am

    Ok, so I’m no that old, but how cool , we loved to go to Never-Never Land as kids. We have pictures of us with these guys. Did they look that creepy in the 80’s?????????

  • 48 Bud Pangan // Jun 24, 2010 at 10:15 pm

    I too, would love to see these figures restored and brought back to Never Never Land for kids to enjoy what I got to when I was a kid. I took a walk through the NNL site today with my young daughters. To them it was like walking among the ruins of a civilization lost and forgotten. To me, I could still see it.

  • 49 Shawn Randles // Jul 25, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    Well it is official that the small hope of NNL return is now lost forever and ever. Sad thing it is to take my 7 year old daughter after telling her all about it and the fun I had there and when we drive up the the one time entrance all I see are the books and the shoe all with less paint then they had before they were painted. And then to just shove the fun out the door more they decided to put a small returd’d pirate ship there which has nothing to do with the original NNL orgins. And I just found out that they are now going to demolish it all. The books, boot and that stupid ship which I will be there for that one. They must try to find someone to bring this back…….they must for my daughters sake and mine….please!!!!

  • 50 Tabatha Almasan // Jul 29, 2010 at 8:44 am

    With all the people interested in NNL I would think some of us would volunteer our time to fixing the old site, or what ever the possible,or hopefully the new site is. I would volunteer! I am good at building, gardening, & specialized painting ,like touching -up the figures. Has the Zoo been asked? A park, more out in the open, that won’t vandalized, I feel like there are so many options, It’s so sad to see them in storage.

  • 51 Diana Karlova // Aug 17, 2010 at 8:35 pm

    How can you guys think about buying that stuff, it was Abigail piece of history and it shouldn’t stay in a musty basment. NO it should go were it belones, in never never land… I wish never never land was back to the way it was <:( I never had a chance to see it in it's AWESOME versian

  • 52 Diana Karlova // Aug 17, 2010 at 8:37 pm

    Their all saying set me free, I want to go back this place is horrible, take me back <:(

  • 53 Yana // Aug 17, 2010 at 9:07 pm

    How can you guys think about splitting up all of these wonderful creations, they are a family. I may have not been around to see this never never land but all of the statues look great, I read a lot about it and never never land should be together. Its home is in point defience and that is where it should stay not some other place. I like the idea of never never land in the zoo. But I think it would be better to make a new neverlamd that is gaurded like the zoo. The place now is a little creepy cleaning it up and a couple of gates would make the place better

  • 54 Reylan Fernandez // Oct 14, 2010 at 9:36 pm

    Never Never Land is officially gone today… Sad day for Tacoma. I hope someday these figures see the daylight again.

  • 55 debbie // Dec 7, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    Someday in the near future i plan to have a charity event and send locals letters to raise money with a group of friends to rebuild hopefully :) wish me luck

  • 56 Debbie // Jan 18, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    if anyone is interrested in helping and shares my passion please email me at NNLRP@Yahoo.com or find me on facebook Debbie Jean Wolfenbarger
    Thank You
    Debra J. Wolfenbarger
    NNLRP | Never Never Land Ressurection Project

  • 57 Debbie // Jan 18, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    ps this is the same debbie as above

  • 58 Annalice Hill // May 7, 2011 at 11:24 am

    This is so sad to me… i played at that park as a child and about 2 years ago i wanted to take my children there to play and that is when i realized that i was no longer there!! I loved that park and have so many wonderful memories there!! What is wrong with the world today that we cant rebuild this park for the children of today in fear that it will be ruined by vandals!!!

  • 59 wildninja // May 27, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    A year ago I found your article while posting a post about Never Never Land on my blog, http://wildninja.wordpress.com/2011/05/27/bigfoot-in-never-never-land/. I linked to it at that time.

    Because of the recent Bigfoot video from Spokane, I’ve reposted this story on my front page.

    If there is an organized effort to preserve Never Never Land, please let me know. Thanks!

  • 60 jess // Sep 28, 2011 at 9:37 pm

    man i wish they still had never never land it was awesome when i was 4 :( i hate that they shut it
    down

  • 61 Shawna Reid // Oct 13, 2011 at 1:58 am

    I too have many fond memories of Never Never Land. I remember how proud I felt, the first time I read a rhyme on my own, without any help:):)Back then we lived in the “sticks”(current Fredrickson/ South Hill area). Mornings following NNL visits, I often woke up in my own bed, feeling confused, wondering how I got there:):)lol:):)

  • 62 Shawna Reid // Oct 13, 2011 at 5:19 am

    My older children did get a chance to see NNL a few times but it was pretty run down by then. My 6yrold has heard about it and keeps asking when the build is:):) We just took part in helping build Playground by the Sound at Chambers Bay. Almost all the tools used came from anybody who had them to loan. No job was to small. Every single one of the at least 3oo-500 people involved were volunteers from all classes, ages, races, abilities, etc. Many of those who started out as unskilled labor at the begining of the week were definately skilled by the end of the build:):) After being involved with something like this, I don’t think, I KNOW THERE IS HOPE FOR NEVER, NEVER, LAND!!! We might not be able to replicate it exactly or even want to in some ways. Although, from all I have read I think most of us are emotionaly attached to NNL in a good way and we can use that energy to create something great for our children, grandchildren, and generations to come long after we are gone. I hope I’m not offending anyone but I have to be honest with myself, it’s time to take off the blinders.What happend to NNL is very preventable. However, we have to quit playing the victim roll and blaming vandals for all the bad stuff that happens or has happened in the past, present and future otherwise it will keep happening again and again.
    ” Never, Never Land Foundation?” I am open to brainstorming and like the charity idea although I would call something like this a fundraiser and an investment:):)

    Shawna Reid
    shawhat@hotmail.com

  • 63 adam // Jan 26, 2012 at 1:22 am

    Hooow Darger. But no Cheshire cat ?!

    Alas, should still absolUtely keep these together – what good is a trinket in a yard? Together they hold a historic era in assembly, apart are tokens, souvenirs only – meaning is lost out of context, like a word removed of a story book.

    They read better as they sit – like an imaginary text that holds untold numbers of stories. And they’re bona fide historic works of art – belong in a (children’s?) museum.

    Really, there’s no building downtown that would house these ? Hard to believe. I guarantee: Volunteers would be found to watch them . .

  • 64 Jack. W // Mar 2, 2012 at 9:31 pm

    What about the arsenic?

  • 65 Ben Hartman // Mar 28, 2012 at 12:27 am

    Please, PLease PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE

    REBUILD NEVER NEVER LAND! PLEASE ! WE NEED THIS IN TACOMA FOR SOMETHING MEMORABLE FOR OUR CHILDREN! PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE! IT is SO IMPORTANT!

    WHO WOULD REMOVE THESE FROM THE FOREST! PLEASE MAINTAIN OUR CITY AND REBUILD THE PARK! PLEASE!

  • 66 wildninja // Jun 27, 2012 at 5:44 pm

    Does anyone remember faces on the trees at Never Never Land? I don’t, but I received an interesting picture from a commenter on my blog that might job someone’s memory: http://wildninja.wordpress.com/2012/06/28/hamadryads-in-nnl/.

  • 67 Debbie // Aug 9, 2012 at 6:28 pm

    ok so now ive made a facebook page check it out and like please and feel free to share memories and photos the page is “Never Never Land Ressurection Project” please support my quest

  • 68 wildninja // Jan 21, 2013 at 6:07 pm

    Hey, I’ve noticed that people are still visiting this page, so want to make everyone aware that the owner of the figurines has started to sell them through Broadway’s Best Antiques. That’s their right, but in my opinion, they belong together, and they belong in a museum. I’ve contacted area museums but they’d have to be donated– they don’t have the $$ to buy them. More info. on my blog at http://wildninja.wordpress.com/2013/01/22/they-belong-in-a-museum/.

  • 69 Joyce // Apr 29, 2014 at 11:43 pm

    My question is! Where are they storing Humpty dumpty. Was he totally destroyed & not fixed, or not found. He was the main attraction. I grew up in the fifties around Never Neverland, & my oldest daughter was taken there when she was growing up. Talk about memories. Just as important, as JP Patches! It’s a time to go back too, in our minds when things get to be too! much these days. We should start a website, talking about memory days of Tacoma, when we were young. Contact me at my e-mail address if that happens. I would love to be apart of it.

  • 70 Joyce // Jan 2, 2015 at 12:36 am

    I believe they should all stay together & be refurbished, & displayed. These museums don’t realize how many people would attend to see them. They should never leave Tacoma. They shouldn’t stay in that tunnel & be ruin by the dampness, what! a waste of history. I grew up in Tacoma,sixy four years, & they were in my childhood & I adored them, I Never Never land. My children enjoyed them. They were magical figtures. The owner needs to bring them back, Maybe displayed behind glass. Business people put your heads & money together for their purpose. Make it possible for all walks of life to see them. It’s sad to keep them this way.

  • 71 J.P. Reedman // Dec 29, 2015 at 12:44 pm

    We had a very similar theme park in the 60’s in Victoria, Canada too!Same owner, same artist and figures. It infiltrated my childish memory so much I used it for a long and scary scene in my Dystopian novel, THE QUEST FOR THE ROSE!
    http://www.amazon.com/THE-QUEST-FOR-ROSE-Dystopian-ebook/dp/B0197BHZ7I

  • 72 Angie Smith // Mar 6, 2017 at 10:17 pm

    Sacramento has an enclosed park called Fairytale Town. It is

    Has a similar theme, more interactive displays but does not have the datalink that NNL had. Families can buy memberships, individuals pay a small entrance fee like going to the zoo or you can book birthday parties. If vandalism closed this treasure (NNL), anything new would need to be enclosed and locked.

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