The transformation of 1222 S. 27th Street happened over many years. Those who have been in Lincoln for a long time might associate it with the Municipal Zoo. Yes, before there was a children’s zoo in Lincoln, this was Lincoln’s Municipal Zoo. And the location was considered one of the finest ones in this part of the country.
I found this postcard on E-bay last summer. At first the designation confused me. As far as I knew, there was not ever a zoo inside of Antelope Park. Through some research and help from the Lincoln Parks & Rec. department, I found out that the land across the street was considered a part of the park.
This part of the zoo contained exotic birds, plants and a waterfall. See the fine painting in the background? That was actually done back in 1960 by an African American student named RoswellCoger. He painted murals throughout the place. I searched online and could not find out anything more about him. So if you happen to be related to this man, please let me know more of his story. I was hoping to discover that he became a famous muralist!
You can find out a bit more about how they set the zoo up in my latest book, A History Lover’s Guide to Lincoln. But I will tell you that this Municipal Zoo only lasted a few decades. The city of Lincoln completed a study and determined that three zoos were too many. Pioneers Park began to focus solely on Midwest plants and animals, especially those native to Nebraska. This zoo complex became a part of the next-door Children’s Zoo for awhile. Eventually there were no more animals.
Since the city owned the building, they needed to determine a new usage. For a few decades, the Chet Ager building became a play place. This was a place that I definitely enjoyed visiting when my kids were younger. Having an indoor place to play was lovely on cold, winter days as well as on hot summer ones. But eventually they decided to close the play place and find a new purpose for this building again.
Now this building is the best of both worlds as a part of the Lincoln Children’s Zoo. People play on the jungle gym. Animals swing around next to them inside of glass enclosures. On the exterior of the building, four animal insets are visible. Those were a part of the original design. Now you know more of the story.
To learn more, please check out my article “Peek into the Past: The History of Zoos in Lincoln” that is in the current edition of the brand new Lincoln Kids Magazine. You can pick up a copy at Super Saver, Russ’ Market and the Lincoln Libraries. Or you can access the September/October/November 2020 magazine online here. My article is on pages 18-19.
And if you are like me and love history, please check out the Antelope Park Zoo Aviary Building application for Landmark status. Many more details about the project and the zoo are told. This was a key part of my research for this portion of the book.