Indian Boundary Park Zoo

From HistoryWiki

Indian Boundary Park Zoo

2555 W. Estes Avenue

Chicago, IL 60645

See also: Bear, Indian Boundary Park, Indian Boundary Park Cultural Center

Two brown bears, Ike and Adlai, arrived at the zoo on October 26, 1952.

House Tour Books Write-Ups

Adapted from the Sunday, May 2, 2010, house tour book, pages 4 and 6.

For close to a century, people have been stumbling upon a little-known "secret" tucked neatly away in the northwest corner of Indian Boundary Park. A neighborhood zoo in the midst of an urban setting.

The Indian Boundary Park Zoo was opened in the 1920s with the donation of a black bear by Frank Kellogg, President of the Ridge Avenue Park District. Over the years, the zoo expanded and, by the early 1950s, its occupants included 71 animals and birds. According to lifetime Park Gables resident Phil Hodapp, whose memories of the park stretch back to the 1930s, the zoo "had what we thought were 'neat' animals: bear, foxes, racoons, and monkeys". Mostly, Indian Boundary Park Zoo has featured a diverse collection of small critters. At one time or another in the zoo's history, the inhabitants included llamas, deer, peacocks, goats, chickens, roosters, ducks, geese, coyotes, rabbits, red foxes, crows, porcupines, sheep, pheasants, black swans, lynx, a wolf, and a wikipedia:Cattle:cow.

In 1960, Marlin Perkins, the Director of the Lincoln Park Zoo, and who many of us remember from the TV show Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom commented: "Indian Boundary is a community zoo. The children get to know individual animals, give them pet names, and watch them grow. Most children visit a zoo only a few times a year at most. But the youngsters around Indian Boundary Park see the animals and birds there almost every day." The childrens' favorites included three grizzly bears, and old black crow named "Petey", and a white-edtail deer they called "Bucky"--each with its own unique personality.

By April of 1984, the zoo's facilities had become outdated. Initially there was discussion of closing the zoo, but many devoted neighbors and friends of the park stepped in. Ultimately, the zoo received a $300,000 renovation that took a year-and-a-half to compete. During that time, all critters were temporarily moved to Lincoln Park Zoo and other zoos. The zoo reopened in the summer of 1985 with six new natural habitats for the animals separated by timber walls--a plan that was modeled after the Lincoln Park Zoo. New guardrails were installed, a wire mesh enclosure was added, and a new petting zoo opened with pygmy goats and llamas.

Today, the zoo's residents include: four dairy goats, named Ralph, Chachi, Addison, and Clark; a pygmy goat named George; a Barred White Rooster, and two standard mixed-breed hens. The small duck swimming in the pond is a rescued Mallard mix.

Over the years, local residents have enjoyed various aspect of the zoo. Many like to watch the ducks in the lagoon as they raise their families (one year, there were 300 ducklings). Others enjoy watching the habits of the Canada Gooses, including their protectiveness of their little ones. Several years ago, neighbors of the park stood watch as the geese flew off nightly around 6:30 P.M. Curious about their destination, someone tracked them, only to find they had spent the night Bryn Mawr Country Club (1919), (an 18-hole golf course), just a few miles away. When the weather began getting cold, people would observe the ritual as the geese prepared to fly to a warmer climate. They would line up in the water, one would give the signal and they would all fly off in a straight line.

For more than 90 years, the Indian Boundary Park Zoo has provided several generations of community members with endless hours of enjoyment.

Is Zoo in line for extinction?

Chicago Tribune, Section 1, page 6, Monday, July 1, 2013.

By: Ellen Jean Hurst, Tribune Reporter

Deciding whether to close the aged Indian Boundary Park Zoo or spend money on repairs is a decades-old conundrum.

In 1894, the zoo was saved from extinction with renovations. In 1995, the threat of closing was again in play. And today, the Chicago Park District says it is again considering whether to close the tiny nearly 90-year-old zoo in West Ridge.

Park District spokeswoman Jessica Maxey-Faulkner said, in an email that under consideration is a proposal to convert the zoo into a "nature area." She said the city would plant various habitats, including "rain gardens, prairie butterfly gardens, savanna plants, and conifer groves."

The zoo at 2555 W. Estes Avenue houses only a few chickens, ducks, and goats, and has fallen into disrepair, according to Lincoln Park Zoo spokeswoman, Sharon Dewar. The zoo takes care of the animals, but it falls to Park District, which owns the land, to maintain the infrastructure.

In 1984, Park District officials debated whether to restore or close the zoo, which at the time housed animals that still were caged in structures built in 1925.

At that time, the zoo held primates, racoons, arctic foxes, birds, and wolves. A decade before, it also had bobcats and brown and black bears.

The Park District chose to spend more than $300,000 on renovations in 1984. In 1995, the Park District spent another $50,000 on repairs.

In her email, Maxey-Faulkner said if the decision is made to close the zoo, the city would work with the National Audubon Society to select animal-friendly landscaping that could include "canopy trees, native shrubs, ornamental trees, grasses, and flowers."

She also said that the Park District would bring native animals--hawks, snakes, and turtles, --to the park for educational purposes. Plans also call for an annual Harvest Fest in the fall, with a petting farm and pony rides.

Alderman Debra Silverstein, 50th Ward, has held two community meetings to discuss the issue, according to her on-line newsletter. She asked for residents to contact her with their opinions on closing the zoo.

Maxey-Faulkner said the Park District has not made any final decisions.

"It is in a very old facility," said Lincoln Park Zoo's Dewar. "it would need a lot of repairs. We just want to take care of the chickens that are there."

Good bye Zoo ?

Animals Will Not Return to Indian Boundary Park Zoo, Alderman Says

By Benjamin Woodard on July 25, 2013 10:10 am |

WEST RIDGE — Although the alderman said new animals wouldn't be returning to Chicago's little-known Indian Boundary Park Zoo, residents living nearby say they won't give up their fight to "Save the Zoo."

More than 100 neighbors crammed Wednesday into a classroom in the Warren Park field house to brainstorm how to convince the Chicago Park District to scrap its plans to turn the decrepit zoo into a habitat to attract native wildlife.

But Alderman Debra Silverstein (50th) was quick to dash the hopes of those thinking animals like llamas, cows and swans would ever return to the zoo that now only holds six chickens and a couple of ducks and one goat.

The zoo had been home to a pair of goats, but last week 15-year-old goat George, who had lived at the zoo since 2003, was euthanized due to "severe" cardiovascular issues caused by a tumor, officials confirmed Thursday.

"The Park District is not going to put animals back into the park," Alderman Silverstein said. "I am telling you now, the park district will not spend $2 million to renovate the zoo."

The alderman arrived late to the heated meeting and left early, angering some who say communications regarding the park district's plans have been less than clear. Silverstein said she was hosting a Jewish wedding celebration and wasn't given enough time to fully schedule the meeting organized by the Indian Boundary Park Advisory Council.

Silverstein also said she had advertised two other meetings to talk about the park district's plans and that residents were open to a nature center with a butterfly garden and native shrubbery.

"She thinks we don't care," said Jennifer Albom, president of the council. "That gives her the green light to close the zoo."

Albom and others say the zoo at 2500 W. Lunt Avenue had been neglected for years, despite the community's willingness to help maintain the cages and domesticated animals.

But now it might be too late to save what's left of Lincoln Park Zoo's little sister that has been in the neighborhood since 1915.

"They're trying to shove it down our throat," said Frank Glapa, a longtime resident of the area. "It's our community and we should hang on to what we got."

Park district officials were not immediately available for comment, but said last month that the zoo's annual budget is $90,000. Its animals are provided and cared for by the Lincoln Park Zoo.

Joel, who declined to share his last name because he works for the Lincoln Park Zoo as a veterinarian and hadn't been approved to officially speak about the issue, said he's lived in the community for more than 20 years and often cares for the small zoo's remaining animals.

He said the zoo's lone building doesn't provide the same level of comfort as the facilities in Lincoln Park.

"Try to take the emotional aspect out of this and think about the animals' welfare," he said. "If you put yourself in their place ... would you want to live 16 hours a day in the cold in the winter time, in the heat in the summer? Drafty, hard-floored area and just have six hours a day to enjoy the sunshine — and have kids poking at you?"

Joel said he takes her granddaughter to the park's lagoon rather than the zoo to see the natural wildlife, like "the bunny rabbits, the Great Blue Heron — I saw a Black-crowned Night Heron last week. Those are endangered in Illinois."

Silverstein agrees that a native habitat would be better than the status quo.

"You see what is there now," she said. "We're trying to make something better out of it."

At the end of the meeting, when the shouting had mostly subsided, one curious girl raised her hand.

She asked: "What are you going to do with the animals?"

The End of Chicago's Smallest Zoo

On August 30, 2013, 50th Ward Alderman Debra Silverman received the following letter from Rob Rejman, Director of Planning and Construction of the Chicago Park District:

"Lincoln Park Zoo has removed the animals from Indian Boundary Park and will no longer operate in the park. The Park District has received many creative ideas from the community and is excited to reinvent this section of the park.

"We are moving ahead with the following projects:

"Renovate the former zoo building with a simple and open plan to allow for a nature center and flexible community uses.

"Create a nature play garden in the former zoo area. This play garden will provide a diverse habitat for birds, butterflies, and dragonflies. It will also integrate playful community art projects and support nature education for young children.

"Renovate the existing spray pool with animal-themed spray elements.

"Design of these projects will begin immediately and construction will be complete by summer of 2014. These projects, when complete, will provide a flexible base to support many of the fun programming ideas brought forth by the community, including the upcoming Harvest Festival. Thank you again for securing NATO legacy funds for the renovation of the spray pool!"

New Indian Boundary Park Nature Play Center

By Benjamin Woodard on Friday, August 8, 2014 7:43 a.m.

The Indian Boundary Park Nature Play Center opened Thursday, August 7, 2014, in the park's former zoo grounds. Indian Boundary Park Nature Play Center

WEST RIDGE — Children and adults alike romped through the Indian Boundary Park Nature Play Center, which opened Thursday in the park's former zoo.

"It's just dynamite — something to be proud of," resident Dan Miller said as he snapped photos at the park's opening day.

In the northwest section of Indian Boundary Park, gone are the few goats, chickens and ducks that once occupied the space.

Now, native plants and meandering concrete pathways have replaced the animal pens. The zoo's old swan huts have been partially transformed into toy houses for children to play inside, a big hit with neighborhood children on Thursday.

The old aviary has been transformed into an enclosed pavilion, its fencing wrapped in ivy vines.

The former zoo building, which can be reserved for community events, has new flooring, exposed brick walls, an insulated roof covered with beadboard paneling and a glass garage-style door that opens into the new park.

"I think it's much more useful to the community," said resident Beth Martin, who worked with other community members to have the former zoo space rebuilt.

The park's landscaping was designed by landscape architect Erich Sprague of the Chicago Park District. It was his first project with the district and he won the praise Thursday of Alderman Debra Silverstein (50th), Mayor Rahm Emanuel and park district CEO Michael Kelly.

"This is a jewel," Emanuel said of Indian Boundary, at 2500 W. Lunt Avenue "When they say we're a city in the garden, they're talking about this park right here."

Kelly said Indian Boundary "may be the nicest park" out of all 600 parks in the city.

"Indian Boundary Park has been a beloved fixture of the 50th Ward for nearly a century," said Silverstein. "I am very pleased to have worked with the community to remodel this space and turn it into an exciting new installation that will engage and delight our children for many more years to come."

The park's spray pool had also been upgraded. Both children and adults cooled off in the mist Thursday.

The project, both the nature play center and the spray pool, cost $570,000, according to the mayor's office.


RPWRHS photo C035I-009 shows Indian Boundary Park Zoo, 2500 W. Lunt Avenue, wolf in cage - two kids, circa 1940.

RPWRHS photo L009-0187 shows Indian Boundary Park Zoo, 2500 W. Lunt Avenue, Reindeer, June 24, 1987.

RPWRHS photo L009-0467 shows unidentified children, one parent, and a Park District employee teaching them about animals at Indian Boundary Park Zoo, 2500 W. Lunt Avenue, August 14, 1991.