Nininger’s Old Meteorite Museum

Nininger’s Old Meteorite Museum

I will write an article upon our return that tells our story of this year’s show, but for my regular article this month I wanted to take a little different direction and visit Nininger’s Old Museum.

Over the years I have stopped by the building many times. Sometimes by myself which I have to admit are both the most quiet and thought provoking visits, and also the spookiest of the visits. I think my slight hesitation in visiting by myself is because of one visit that Paul and I made. As we pulled up onto the little flat area there was one car parked there already. We started to get out of our vehicle when we were confronted by two very creepy men. Which we immediately realized were criminals of some type. We quickly returned to our car and got out of there. Grateful to not have been shot. Later thoughts led us to conclude that the ruin was deserted, isolated and in view of I-40 with easy access back onto the Interstate. A logical place for criminal activity. Since then visits by myself have been with just a little hesitation.

But last trip to the crater my wife and I had a nice time walking around the ruins and the area. I love to look out the square hole in the front wall. It had once held a window. I like to frame the crater rim in it as Harvey must have many times long ago.

Little remains now of his porcelain fixtures. They were shot into fragments decades ago. But, now there are very few pieces even remaining. Stone by stone I suppose the entire ruin will continue to be dismantled. Someday nothing may remain at all.

I have mentioned this before; the ruin was always marked on the USGS topo sheet for the Meteor Crater Quadrangle. On one I got a few years ago it was no longer shown. The other ruins along I-40 still were on that map. Of all of them the old museum ruin has the most character and history. It should in this writer’s opinion be a historical landmark and preserved. But, how important meteorites are in comparison to where some dead president slept is what others decide. Maybe a note to a historical society in the area is needed to protect it

I have been to the ruin in the very early morning before anyone is up at the RV park. I have been there late in the afternoon walking back to my space in the dark. Mid-morning, noon and early afternoon are also times in my visit history. I have photographed lightening striking near it as autumn thunderstorms moved over us. But, I want to share one photo that I love. I took it as you can see at sunset. I remember standing there seeing the sun’s last rays streaming through the stones and thinking this is my Stonehenge. This is one of my ritual sites, a place in meteorite lore to be remembered. Here is where meteorite study and collection reached a pentacle that had not been attained before. Here the study of impact craters was advanced to another level.

Many times I have walked from the RV park to the ruin. Route 66 is a historical treasure itself. There is not much left of the old road either. The paint in the middle is all but gone. The pavement is cracked and crumbling. It is surprising how really narrow it was. But, it bought thousands to Harvey’s door and he thrilled many of them with his well rehearsed lecture on meteorites. Many got his books and pamphlets. A smaller number left with a real meteorite. Over the years I have spoken to dozens of individuals who showed me a meteorite and said, “My parents stopped at this little place near Meteor Crater and bought it.” Harvey’s legacy continues to the present even as the building he worked from falls further into disrepair.

For me there will always be a connection between the crater and the American Meteorite Museum ruin. I often stand on the north rim of Meteor Crater and turn to see it in the distance. Dreaming for a moment that it is the 1940‘s. I listen for the sound of Harvey’s truck as it rambles over the slope of the crater dragging his magnets. Too soon though the vision fades and the imaged sound of his truck is replaced by the words of astounded crater guests who like me share Harvey’s awe of Meteor Crater.

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Nininger’s Old Meteorite Museum
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The crumbling ruins of Nininger's museum remain on the side of I-40 as you pass the Meteor Crater off ramp in central Arizona. In the 1940's this building was a pretty stone structure with a tower where the largest private collection of meteorites in the world was housed.
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