Iowa City Park Zoo

City Park Zoo

One of my favorite things to do as a little girl was to go see the City Park Zoo in Iowa City, Iowa. My favorite part was prairie dogs. A whole prairie dog town had been recreated in honor of a girl who died. By then there wasn’t too much more of the zoo left. There was a monkey cage and you could go into the cages cut into the solid rock of the hillside where they used to keep the dangerous animals. I loved poking around inside the now empty cages. (By the way, out of curiosity I checked. The hillside cages are still there, still empty, but now locked up, probably by the same liability killjoy that got rid of the wonderful tree house my father impressed me by climbing up the outside of and the wonderful 1940s firetruck which was replaced by an incredibly boring set of climbing bars in the shape of a fire truck which now even that is gone.)

However, the zoo used to be much bigger than that the photo at left is from a one-room school field-trip. The little girl is Donna Cooper Redlinger, a neighbor. Behind her is one of the zoo enclosures and some of the park’s buffalo. I was talking with the Johnson County Historical Society and found they don’t much have much on the City Park Zoo. We’re still checking through our photos, please check through yours too. I would love to see some more photos of the zoo.

UPDATE: There seems to be continuing interest in the City Park Zoo, but not a lot of information. I have found a couple of other things since this was first published back in 2011.

This was in an old family scrapbook.
https://trundlebedtales.wordpress.com/2012/04/18/monkey-business-in-iowa-city

And I went in search of the mural that used to be on the cage in the side of the hill.
https://trundlebedtales.wordpress.com/2012/10/13/missing-murals-of-iowa-city

I’d be very interested in any information or photos that anyone would be willing to share about the City Park Zoo and will deposit copies of anything I find with the Johnson County Historical Society which also doesn’t have much on the zoo.

UPDATED January 4, 2015: A reader calling themselves AMS kindly put this in the comments. It’s an interview with a man who helped run the zoo. Enjoy!

http://www.thegazette.com/subject/life/people-places/remember-when-iowa-city-had-a-zoo-earlis-stockman-does-20160103

Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales striving to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

 

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trundlebedtales

Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales striving to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

10 thoughts on “Iowa City Park Zoo”

  1. I lived in Iowa City during much of WWII. When my dad came home from the war we moved to Cedar Rapids. I have some memories of the zoo, and I think the cages were still there when my husband and I married in 1963 when we were graduate students in the writers’ workshop. I don’t have any photos of the zoo, though I do have some of my parents canoeing on the river while they were courting while they were both SUI students. Do you have any more info about the zoo? Thanks.

    1. No, I don’t have any more information. I haven’t done a lot of digging yet and nobody else has come through with any more photos. The one cage (the one we called the gorilla cage when I was little, but it was empty by then so I don’t know what it really held) that is dug into the rock of the hillside is still there. The mural that was painted on it is gone and the door is now locked (it was always open when I was little and we used to play inside), but it’s still there behind the “Globe replica” theater.

  2. I used to visit daily with my grandfather when he went to the post office, early 1950s. No cats that I recall, but at least two black bears in those cages, and a forlorn bison in a paddock.

    “C’mon, Lance, let’s go see the bears.”

  3. i have this vauge memory of a hippo ….. but I can’t tell you what year… would have been late 60’s or early 70’s.

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