The Washington Park Zoo ~ 1928-1946

Image of Chilo the Chimpanzee


The 1930s were a dark decade for the Washington Park Zoo.  The Great Depression of 1929 made a zoo appear to be a luxury to economy-minded officials.  Despite this, there were still some innovations made.  Two bear dens without bars were created at the Washington Park Zoo in 1930.  The dens were designed artistically, and gave the impression the bears were living in their natural environment - the base of a rocky cliff.  A 14-foot moat at the front of the dens separated the bears from the public.

Throughout the 1930s, the most popular primate was the chimpanzee, Mary Lou.  She dined with precision at 4 p.m. daily, using a knife, fork and spoon.  She was famous for her ability to mimic and entertain Zoo crowds.  While wearing a dress and hat, Mary Lou was even known to visit the downtown Gimbels store with her keeper, Ben Rubin.