Saturday, December 10, 2011

Lincoln Park Zoo Kovler Lion House--Preserving History and Architecture

Year Built: 1912
Architect: Perkins, Fellows & Hamilton
Date Designated a Chicago Landmark: November 30, 2005

The Lion House blends both the grandly-scaled public architecture of the Classical style with the innovative Prairie style, developed by Chicago architects in the early 20th century. The building was designed by architect Dwight H. Perkins, a well-known advocate of park and school reform. The building has excellent brickwork and terra-cotta ornament, unique lion mosaics and a grand interior with a vaulted Guastavino-tile ceiling, an innovative construction technology of the time.


The Chicago Commission on Landmarks in March granted preliminary landmark status to the Lincoln Park Zoo Lion House, the grandly-scaled primary building located in one of the oldest municipal zoos in America.
"The Lion House is one of the most popular and widely recognizable attractions in our park system and well deserving of landmark status," said Department of Planning and Development Commissioner Denise M. Casalino.
Now known as the Kovler Lion House, the Beaux-Arts and Prairie-style building exemplifies an important period in Chicago park history when designers sought to create unique landscapes and rejected historic styles for modern design.
Constructed in 1912, the Lion House is a strikingly detailed park building. It is a large rectangular masonry building with its long axis oriented in an east-west direction. The building has elements of the Prairie-style, evidenced by its simple horizontal lines and lack of applied historic ornamentation.
The Lincoln Park Zoo was designed by Dwight Perkins, along with his partners William Fellows and John Hamilton. Perkins went on to become an important figure in the expansion and democratization of several Chicago parks.
From its inception, the Lincoln Park Zoo was conceived as an old-fashioned, menagerie-type zoo. Over the years, the zoo has built several new exhibit buildings and renovated others to reflect that concept, including the addition of outdoor "naturalistic" animal display areas to the Lion House.
Today, Lincoln Park Zoo is still the most visited municipal zoo in the United States, drawing some four million people each year.
The vote for preliminary landmark designation begins the process of public hearings, owner outreach and further study. The Commission may then recommend the landmark designation to the City Council where the proposal would be reviewed by the City Council's Committee on Historical Landmark Preservation. A vote by the full City Council is needed for landmark designation.

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