Monday, July 30, 2012

Middlesex Fells Zoo/Stoneham Zoo

Middlesex Fells Zoo  1964

 Middlesex Fells Zoo  1965

 Stoneham Zoo  1976

Major the polar bear  1990  Stoneham Zoo

The zoo was founded in 1905 as the Middlesex Fells Zoo. It began as a small collection of local animals, but soon began to include more exotic species as well. A new attraction, the Kiddy Zoo (which was largely based on Mother Goose stories) opened in the 1950s. The zoo underwent its largest renovation project in the 1960s under the guidance of zoo director Walter D. Stone; state-of-the-art exhibits were built, including a large free-flight aviary. Also from the renovation project, the zoo began featuring elephants, giraffes, zebras, pygmy hippos, sea lions, and many other large animals. On March 14, 1969, the zoo was renamed the Walter D. Stone Memorial Zoo in honor of Walter D. Stone,  after his untimely death in 1968.

The zoo was very popular by the 1970s and 1980s. During this time, it began breeding endangered species, including orangutans.  A polar bear named "Major" came in July 1979, and soon became the zoo's main attraction.

On November 12, 1990, after drastic state budget cuts, the Stone Zoo was forced to shut down. Due to a public outcry, the state senate helped set up a private, non-profit corporation to manage the zoo, with the help of fund-raising, donations, etc. During this transition period the zoo lost all of its large animals (except for Major, who stayed at the zoo until his death in 2000), and the grounds were not kept properly. The zoo rapidly declined in quality, and then in attendance. Old facilities were put to new uses, such as using the giraffe house as an animal education center. The zoo reopened its gates on June 6, 1992.
In the early 2000s, Zoo New England began a fund-raising campaign to reinvigorate both the Stone Zoo and the Franklin Park Zoo. A variety of fund-raisers were carried out, and a variety of plans for improvements to the zoo were drawn up. Surveys were made of zoo visitors about the various plans, and Zoo New England has been using the results to direct their improvement and renovation plans. On September 24, 2005, Stone Zoo celebrated its 100th anniversary.

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