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.
And I went in search of the mural that used to be on the cage in the side of the hill.
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!
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.