Entrance area to Hogle Zoo. By Lynn Arave Hogle Zoo technically hit the century mark in 2011 and with it, a legacy that goes back to its humble beginnings in Liberty Park, with just a single cage of monkeys.
During its 100-plus years, the zoo's progress toward becoming the Mountain West's largest collection of animals has been chronicled in the Deseret News.
In 1911, a deer was also put on display, and the state's first zoo looked like it would be a hit. By 1912, the Salt Lake City Parks Department officially started a zoo with a $153 investment, that included 16 animals — monkeys, pheasants, foxes, squirrels, ducks, cranes and peafowl.
A year later, in 1913, the zoo had its first building to house animals. It added another exhibit, 100 rabbits strong, and was open mid-May to mid-December that year. Admission was free.
Later that year, the zoo boasted 275 animals and an annual budget of $4,788.But it was 1916 when the zoo purchased its first elephant, the legendary Princess Alice from a traveling circus. Named for President Roosevelt's daughter Alice, area school children collected coins and raised $3,250 for the pachyderm's purchase price and travel expenses to Utah.
The next year, the zoo had a house erected for Princess Alice, and on April 29, 1918, she gave birth to Prince Utah. However, the baby elephant died on March 14, 1919, when his mother accidentally rolled over on him.
The Deseret News report claimed the mother elephant shed sad tears and exhibited mournful trumpeting after the death.
The community was in an uproar and everyone agreed that the zoo needed new quarters in a more isolated location.Still, Princess Alice remained the star of the zoo, at least until the early 1930s, when she began to run amok. In 1931, the elephant kept breaking loose and running down 700 East. Often, she would also run through Salt Lake City neighborhoods and have an odd collection of clothes stuck on her body, perhaps due to clotheslines strung throughout the yards at some homes at the height of the elephant.
Enter Mr. and Mrs. James Hogle, who donated land at the mouth of Emigration Canyon to the newly formed Salt Lake Zoological Society.
By July 31, 1931, a main building (today's old elephant building) was dedicated and 14,000 visitors swarmed the zoo the next day.
The zoo made the news again in 1934, when its water supply was cut off for failure to pay a $195 bill. The rather flamboyant zoo superintendent threatened to turn all the animals loose if the water was not restored. An agreement was reached, and the water was turned back on, without incident.Later that year, a monkey island exhibit was added to Hogle Zoo.
By the start of World War II, in the early 1940s, the zoo had fallen into a poor state of maintenance. But within a year, facilities were improved, and the zoo was even asking Salt Lake residents to donate their unwanted pets as exhibits.
The war meant supplies were meager, and local gardens were heavily relied upon to help feed many of the animals.
In 1947, Avard Fairbanks sculpted two mountain lions on top of the granite columns at the zoo's entrance. These lions still grace the zoo's entrance today. After the war, the zoo received some new improvements. However, in November of 1946, the zoo's polar bear Blizzard was shot, presumably by a visitor. It survived, but guns were then banned from the zoo.
Princess Alice went on another rampage in 1947, ripping up concrete, a steel fountain and a tree within the zoo boundaries, but no one was hurt.
In 1948, the famous Shasta the liger was born, sired by a father lion and mother tiger, and by 1953, Princess Alice had to be put to sleep, having lived to nearly age 69.
The newspaper covered the zoo's alligator moving in 1967, to accommodate a repainting of their living quarters. In 1969, the Deseret News highlighted the zoo's Kodiak bears, and in 1971, the focus was on the zoo's bison herd.
There's a colorful history behind many of the individual features at the Hogle Zoo too.
This is a history visible before zoo guests even get inside the gates.
One of the bronze Hogle Zoo cougar sculptures. Look closely at the two bronze sculptures of cougars by the waterfalls at the east side of the zoo's front gate. These same mountain lion models used to be perched atop the historic granite pillars entrance gate to Hogle Zoo, along Sunnyside Avenue, from 1947-2000. The felines, created by Avard Fairbanks, were refurbished and then incorporated into the zoo's new entryway, which opened in 2001.
Old-timers will also recall that Sunnyside Avenue was relocated in the 1960s and moved northward. It used to travel where the south side of today's parking lot is. That realignment allowed zoo parking to be contiguous to its entryway.
Hogle Zoo also has a Works Project Administration legacy. The main rock wall behind the zoo's new amphitheater is a product of the federal works project, which was built in the 1930s soon after the zoo relocated to 2600 E. Sunnyside Ave. from Liberty Park.
The wall is 12-15 feet thick, according to Hogle Zoo assistant director Doug Lund. He said the wall was reinforced with a lot of metal, which was likely salvaged during the Great Depression. Some old wagon wheels were even found in the wall's composition.
How about the Hogle Zoo miniature train?
It has been running around since 1969 and Lund estimates it has given joy to some 8 million riders during those four decades. Designed after an 1860 steam engine, the "C.P. Huntington," owned by the governor of California, its 24-inch tracks have been relocated three times over the years. The train can carry 76 passengers and now hauls a total of 400,000 riders each year.
Remember the lion head drinking fountains? The original lion fountain arrived at Hogle Zoo in the 1950s, has been refurbished a few times and is now found by the penguin pool. There are also two new versions of the fountain in use at the zoo.
Lund said he even has some old photos of himself as a youth with his head inside that lion's mouth.
Lund also said observant guests may spot some almost hidden features at the zoo. For example, there are six small dinosaurs hidden within the seven continents mural, above the zoo's carousel ride.
"It's kind of fun to spot them," he said, even though they are only a few inches tall.
There's also an elephant sculpture, only about 5 inches tall, carved into the main roof truss in the center of the Elephant Encounter Lodge.
(-Distilled from two stories in the Deseret News by Lynn Arave and on Sept. 20, 2010 and Sept. 7, 2007).
-NOTE: The author, Lynn Arave, is available to speak to groups, clubs, classes or other organizations about Utah history at no charge. He can be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org