February 2012 - Late 1920s through the Early 1950s
Jacksonville Zoo History 1914-2014
Featured February 2012
Alan F. Rost, Biological Programs Registrar and unofficial Zoo historian
Late 1920s through the Early 1950s
This is the period (from late 1926 to early 1955) that we know the least about in our Zoo’s history. For much of this period, visitors could drive into the Zoo and park along the road. For a time, there was a museum on grounds with Jacksonville’s original fire engine. The Zoo’s entrance that was used until the early 1990s was built during this period. In May of 1950, a launching ramp for outboard motorboats was added to Zoo grounds. We know that band concerts were held at the Zoo in 1948.
The most iconic building on Zoo grounds during this period was the elephant house that was built in 1936. It was designed by architect Roy Benjamin as an octagonal building with a tile roof, stylized bas-relief palm trees and a band of glass bricks to provide light to the interior. It was said to be a good example of the Art Deco style.
The building housed “Miss Chic” the elephant, who was insured by Lloyds of London until December of 1944 and again when the insurance was renewed after WWII in February of 1948.
Some of the first time records we have for species from this period include Mandrill (1939 or earlier), Chimpanzee (1941), Leopard (1941/42), an unknown Macaw species (1943), and Giant Anteater (1951).
I have heard rumors about some kind of research going on at our Zoo during World War II using common species such as the chicken, but to date, I can confirm none of this.
Taken May 28, 1950 at the dedication of the boat ramp. L.C. “Chief” Hill, right with neck tie, with the City recreation department and a member of the Jacksonville Outboard Club. Photo submitted by Rick Hill from his family memorabilia.