What started out as a crazy idea to build a replica of Noah’s Ark turned into a titanic operation and a much needed opportunity for a small town.
Zach Winn · December 27, 2016
Encounter of A Biblical Kind
Welcome The Ark Encounter, a towering 510-foot-long by 85-foot-wide, ship built to be an exact replica of Noah’s Ark.
Designed according to the Bible’s specifications, the giant boat is the largest timber-frame structure in the world. Although it may sound unbelievable, construction of this engineering marvel was completed earlier this year and, if everything goes according to plan, it will change Williamstown forever.
An Idea Comes to Life
Answers in Genesis is a Christian apologetics ministry that in 2007 opened a Creation Museum to help explain its interpretation of the origins of the universe. The museum has since attracted millions of people to a variety of exhibits that depict stories in the Bible.
Among the exhibits that attracted the most attention was a small section of wooded walls made to show a portion of Noah’s Ark. Patrick Marsh, the head designer of the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum attractions, remembers getting asked about the feasibility of constructing an Ark by visitors about once every other week.
“The idea of building the ark started shortly after we created the museum,” Marsh recalls. “We had a lot of people asking questions about our next big project, and it was a pretty obvious progression. The only thing we had to do was come up with the money.”
Luckily, the ministry had a large base of donors who had helped build the museum. Answers in Genesis leaders, including president Ken Ham and chief action officer Mike Zovath, were able to formulate a proposal for the ark idea and raise over $30 million in donations. The donations alone covered about half of the building process’ cost. The remaining funds were secured when Williamstown’s Grant County approved sponsorship for a construction bond proposal.
“Grant County put their name on, it but they didn’t pay for it,” Marsh explained. “It needed to be registered that way, but there was really no government involvement. Everything was paid for by donors and believers.”
Challenge of Biblical Proportions
When compared to the construction of such a mammoth structure, raising $67 million might have been the easy part. The ministry wanted to keep things true to the Bible’s story, which meant determining which cubit, an ancient measuring unit, to use. Once they settled on exact dimensions, they needed to find a construction company confident enough to make their vision come to life.
The Troyer Group, an Indiana-based engineering and design firm known for employing members of the Amish community, was selected because of its experience building wood framed structures. Previous experience, however, could only prepare the group so much for such a unique project.