Monday, June 20, 2011

Vintage Miller Park Zoo--Bloomington, Illinois

The first city money was spent for the care of animals in Miller Park in 1891. Although there was at least one deer, there is no definite list of the animals that the first payment supported.

The zoo was started when a circus lion cub ended up on a farmer's farm around 1900, and was eventually given to the city of Bloomington. The lion, later named "Big Jim" died on March 26, 1912. After Big Jim's death, funds were raised to construct the Koetthoefer Animal Building. Ground was broken in 1913, and the building was opened to the public in 1914.

The first real expansion of the zoo was in 1960 with the construction of the Woodland Wing, which at one time housed two sea lions. In the mid-1970s, the Woodland Wing became the Tropical Rainforest Exhibit, the Animal Building was updated, and the sea lion/otter pools were built.

The Entrance Building/Education Center was opened in 1992, the wolf exhibit in 1993, the Wallaby Walkabout in 1994, the Bald Eagle exhibit in 1995, the Animals of Asia exhibit in 1996, Zoolab in 1999, the Children's Zoo Complex in 2001, and the Tropical Rainforest Exhibit in 2004. These additions more than doubled the size of the zoo.

Over the years, the zoo has seen a very wide variety of animals. There have been chimps, lions, a polar bear, moose, mountain lions, black bears, penguins, an elephant, bison, gray wolves, alligators, squirrel monkeys, spider monkeys, bats, foxes, North American porcupine, raccoons, and many other species.


klsdad said...


klsdad said...

Beautiful building!

Certainly has a Frank Lloyd Wright feel. I called the zoo director to confirm. He's heard that it may have been Wright's design but can't confirm.

Wade G. Burck said...

The roof design, in particular the supports/trusses in the corner reminded me of a FLW design. It's surprising that the original blue prints for the building are not in a file someplace, so that it could be confirmed. FLW was one of the greatest, and his homes "blended" into the "prairie's" are some of my favorite designs. The John and Herta Cuneo estate in Grayslake is a very gorgeous FLW designed home, with triangle shaped rooms and beautiful flagstone through out.


Jim A. said...

My father's family was from Bloomington, IL and I have many fond memories of visiting Miller Park. In my youth the animal collection was several lions, a jaguar, some hamadryas baboons and a load of rhesus macaques. Outside was a black bear exhibit, a raccoon pit, and a large cage of mostly domestic fowl.

In the 1960s Grover Kathoffer was the Park Supt. and head of the Zoo. It got interesting. Grover expanded the animal collection, even had a few monkey islands in Miller Lake. I visied once on a Sunday morning to find a fair-sized (not adult) chimp riding a tricycle freely about the guests in the Zoo building.

The Zoo just about got closed in the early 70s. One of those fix it or close it situations. The Zoo did improve. In the late 1980s John Tobias became the Director. He took a nice little city zoo and made it special. It's still small but with a nice collection of animals that imsprire people to learn and care about them. John retired a few years ago, good luck to the new staff. Definately a zoo worth a visit.

Anonymous said...

Was wanting to know was miller park called circus park at anytime .