of Como Zoo
Como Zoo Time Line
Lake Como is named by Charles Perry, who farms a tract of land on
the shore of the lake.
St. Paul, Minnesota, is incorporated as a city.
Henry McKenty, a real estate developer, has
a dream for grand homes and resorts around the lake, which he has
renamed Lake Sancy. He changes his mind and names it Lake Como again.
Henry McKenty puts up $6,000 in gold to build
the first Como Road.
A plan for city parks at Lake Como and Lake
Phalen is presented to the City Council by H.W.S. Cleveland, a famous
Early park supporters donate $100,000 to purchase
land for a park, and the City acquires 300 acres around Lake Como.
Some people in St. Paul think a park would be a waste of valuable
In the economic depression of the 1870's,
St. Paul has no money to spend on developing the Park.
Frederick Nussbaumer becomes Superintendent of Parks. His vision,
know-how and hard work shaped the Como Park we know today.
The new electric railway makes it possible for St. Paul residents
to make the 3-mile trip to Como Park in only 30 minute
Como Zoo is founded when the City of St. Paul
receives a gift of three deer. A pasture is fenced for them in Como
The animal collection at Como Zoo includes native animals like elk
and moose, plus foxes and two Cebus cattle. Several citizens donate
pets to the Zoo - a parrot, a pair of Mexican red birds and a monkey.
Lt. Governor Thomas Frankson donates two bison to Como Zoo. Como
Park Conservatory is built. The new Conservatory provides a warm
winter home for Zoo animals.
"Peggy", an American black bear, is donated to Como Zoo.
A cage is build for her out of some old iron arches that had been
standing in the Park.
Because spring and fall rains make the Zoo too muddy for visitors,
cement walkways are build in the Zoo, and the roads are paved.
Monkey Island (now Seal Island) is built. This is the first of several
Como Zoo buildings constructed by the WPA, also including the bear
grottoes, the Main Zoo Building and the Old Barn.
Como Zoo acquires a large number of exotic animals when the Longfellow
Gardens Zoo in Minneapolis closes.
Buck, world-famous explorer, attends the dedication ceremony of
the new Main Zoo Building at Como Zoo. The bear grottoes are completed.
The St. Paul Zoological Society buys animals for the new buildings.
Como Zoo has paved parking lots, a "Kiddie Zoo" and space
for rides and concessions. A "raccoon pit" is added, later
changed into a prairie dog hill.
The mill house and water wheel are built in the bird yard.
"Rabbitville" is built. Later it will be expanded into
the Children's Farm Zoo.
A Northern Pacific steam engine is moved to the grounds of Como
Zoo. The St. Paul Zoological Society disbands and donates its remaining
funds to the Zoo.
City officials recommend closing Como Zoo. A Citizen Volunteer Committee
is formed to save the Zoo.
Archie Brand's Seal Show comes to Como Zoo through the efforts of
a wealthy Minnesota businessman. Many repairs are made at the Zoo,
and more new animals arrive: Ostrich, jaguars, seals, llamas, baboons
John A. Fletcher becomes the first Como Zoo Director. The Zoo has
six employees and an annual budget of $30,000. A number of valuable
and endangered animals, such as Siberian tigers, gorillas and orangutans
join the Zoo collection.
Toby, the giant Galapagos tortoise, comes to live at Como Zoo. Small
children are allowed to ride on Toby's back. The first Siberian
tigers to be raised successfully in captivity are born at Como Zoo.
Como Zoo's Mobile Zoo visits locak schools. Jerry Fearing, of the
St. Paul Pioneer Press, draws weekly features about animals at the
Zoo. "Casey" the gorilla arrives.
Talking story books describing the animals, their origins and habitats,
are installed at Como Zoo. Zoo visitors can purchase elephant-shaped
keys to operate the talking story books.
The Metropolitan Zoo Report of the Citizen's League decides Como
Zoo cannot be expanded into a major zoo facility. Planning for the
Minnesota Zoo begins.
Again, citizens rally to raise funds to save Como Zoo. The Como
Zoo Docent Association is founded by some of the same people. The
original Primate House is build where the present-day Primate House
now stands. Don and Donna, young lowland gorillas, arrive at the
In January, keepers are forced to shoot "Whitey", a male
polar bear, to save the life of a midnight visitor who fell into
the bear grotto. In August, the perimeter fence around the Zoo is
completed. For the first time, the Zoo animals are protected from
The Como Zoological Society is incorporated as a support group for
Como Zoo. Toby, the Galapagos tortoise, retires to the Honolulu
Zoo, where he still lives today.
A new Master Plan for Como Zoo is presented to the State Legislature,
which approves $8.5 million funding for the redevelopment of the
The first of the new buildings, the Large Cat Exhibit, opens.
The new Aquatic Animal Building opens to the public with new quarters
for the polar bears and a show arena for the Sparky the Sea Lion
show. Monkey Island is rebuilt as Seal Island. Casey II, the grandson
of Como's original Casey, comes from the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville,
Texas, to live at Como.
The new Primate Building is ready to house gorillas, orangutans,
lemurs, monkeys and tamarins.
A large outdoor pool and waterfall are part of the new Land Bird
and Waterfowl Exhibit.
The African Hoofed Stock Exhibit, housing giraffes, zebras and two
kinds of antelope, is the final building to be completed under the
Master Plan of the 1970's.
Don the gorilla dies. In May, Casey II jumps out of the outdoor
gorilla exhibit and takes a short walk before jumping back into
his yard. Como Zoo starts planning a new and better gorilla exhibit.
Over one million visitors come to Como Zoo, including thousands
of children from Minnesota Schools. Sparky the Sea Lion Show celebrates
its 40th Anniversary season, featuring Sparky IV.
Como Zoo celebrates its 100th Anniversary.
Birthday, Como Zoo!
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