About Us

History

In 1959, Arnott Folsom built a zoo designed for children with the goal to instill in them a respect for all living things by introducing them to the wonders of the natural world. Below is a historical timeline of the Zoo's major accomplishments.

1959

Mr. and Mrs. Arnott Folsom made the first donation of $5,000 to the Children’s Zoo Association for early planning and initial operating support. Folsom then led the public fundraising campaign to finance the Zoo.

July 1965

The Lincoln Children’s Zoo opened its doors to the public. At that time the Ager Zoo and Pioneers Park both featured exotic animals, essentially providing Lincoln with three zoos. However, the Lincoln Children’s Zoo was the only institution that was privately funded.

1965–1973

The Lincoln Children’s Zoo was a seasonal facility open only during the summer. Each of the Zoo’s residents were purchased for a Memorial Day opening and then sold after Labor Day. Every staff member was seasonal, working only the summer months.

1973

The Zoo hired its first full-time staff members and retained the animals on a year-round basis.

 1978

The Animal Kingdom Building (AKB) building opened providing a year-round exhibit space.

 1979

The Zoo was renamed the Folsom Children’s Zoo to honor the passing of Arnott Folsom, the visionary of the Zoo.

 1980

The City created a Zoo Task Force, which conducted a “Zoo Tuning Study” to evaluate the status of Lincoln’s zoos. It is determined that the Ager Zoo would close because of its sub-standard facility and that the display of animals at Pioneers Park would be of native Nebraska flora and fauna. The Folsom Children’s Zoo became the official zoo of Lincoln.

 1989

A $3.6 million bond issue passed to upgrade the Zoo’s infrastructure, improve the adjoining park area, and to provide a new Zoo entrance as well as much needed visitor amenities including parking, restrooms, and support facilities.

 1991

The new facilities opened with the entrance off of 27th Street. The Zoo received its first accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

 1993

The Zoo conducted a feasibility study.

 1994

A capital campaign called ReZOOvenation was chaired by Holly Ostergard and Jim Abel.

 1996

The Zoo retained its AZA accreditation.

 1997

A total of $3,409,535 in gifts and pledges was raised from ReZOOvenation. The Zoo unveiled its largest makeover including new habitats for the river otters, spectacled bears, Bactrian camels and gelada baboons. Leopards and singing dogs became the new animals for the season. Stegosaurus Fountain and Zooville Square underwent extensive remodeling. A new education complex was built as well as a new veterinary facility. In collaboration with the Lincoln Public Schools, a science-focus program opened on Zoo grounds called Zoo School.

 2000

The Institute of Museums Services announced a two year grant to the Lincoln Children’s Zoo for $112,500.

 2001

Zoo receives a $100,000 gift. The Butterfly Pavilion opens and becomes an overnight sensation. The Zoo and Lincoln Parks and Recreation embark on a master plan for the Antelope Triangle Park. The Zoo receives accreditation for the third time.

 2002

The Zoo raised $230,000 to fund the new Z.O.&O. Railroad, replacing the Zoo’s original 38 year-old train. Red pandas made their return to the Zoo. “Opening the Gates”, a new program to welcome Lincoln’s growing diverse community, was launched to provide guided tours in 10 different languages.

 2003

“Eagle Experience”, a new home for the Zoo’s two bald eagles, was dedicated. The engine house was remodeled as a play area for children. DeBrazza monkeys make their debut at the Zoo

 2004

The 4,000 square-foot Camelot Commons Education Center opens in memory of Zoo School students Courtney Cusick and Michael Berg. Pot-bellied Seahorses and Toni, a harbor seal, were the new animals this season. The Zoo hosted the first Garden Party fundraiser generating over $40,000 and building community connections. Over 25,000 people attended the Zoo’s annual Boo at the Zoo fundraising event.

 2005

The Zoo celebrates its 40th anniversary with events throughout the year. Dromedary Dock camel feeding station opened to the delight of the visitors. The Pfizer Animal Commissary opened tripling the size of the diet kitchen, vastly improving the quality of animal nutrition at the Zoo. The second annual Garden Party raised $100,000 in funds and donations.

 2006

After discussions with the Folsom family and conducting market research, the Zoo’s Board approved reinstating the name Folsom had originally given to the Zoo––the Lincoln Children’s Zoo. Bailey Lauerman created a new logo featuring a blue hand and tagline “Learn firsthand.” to highlight the many hands-on, educational opportunities that have been staples at the Zoo.

2008

A renovation of Stegosaurus Fountain led to the creation of Stego’s Big Dig. Laura’s Butterfly Pavilion opened as a permanent structure to house the popular exhibit.

2009

The Zoo’s announcement of the first ever documented birth of twin Matschie’s tree kangaroos appeared in newspapers around the world. The gift shop was remodeled and renamed the Zoonique Boutique.