Saturday, January 19, 2008

Franklin Park Zoo - Opening Soon

I will note here that I'm pretty sure that the John Benson cited below was later the founder of Benson's Wild Animal Farm of Hudson New Hampshire. Or was it his son? Any one who grew up in the metro Boston area during the 1960s like I did will remember the name, and many will have visited the park. If I'm right about this, why did Mr Benson leave Franklin Park? Maybe someone will have an answer to leave in the Comments section.

Boston Daily Globe May 28, 1911

Boston Zoo Ready In A Year

J.T. Benson Has Been Nominated Curator.

Talks of His Experiences and of Franklin Park Plans.

By this time next year the new municipal zoo in Franklin park will be opened. It is expected at present, with the bear dens occupied and the denizens of the great flying cage on view to the public. Work has already started on the bear dens and Monday a large force of men will be employed on this one feature. If plans for the new Boston zoological gardens can be taken as any criterion for the completed zoo, Boston will undoubtedly have one of the finest such exhibits to be found in the world.

A Globe reporter visited the site of the proposed zoo in Franklin park last week to ascertain what had been done. There he found John T. Benson, who has been appointed curator of the zoo by park commissioners, subject to confirmation by Mayor Fitzgerald. His honor has not yet confirmed the selection of the park commissioners.

Mr Benson is well equipped for this great work, as he has been intimately associated with animals, birds and fish from his boyhood. Last winter he passed five months in the great European cities studying the zoos there and securing first-hand information as to the latest and best methods of housing and caring for park animals, birds, etc. During his trip he visited the great zoological gardens at Dublin, London, Paris, Berlin, Antwerp and Hamburg.

Being personally friendly with Hagenbeck, he visited that famous animal man's place at Hamburg, which is the most modern and best equipped in the world, he says. Because of his friendship he was permitted to make a careful study of the quarters, making measurements and plans of the cages, houses, drainage systems, etc, all of which would be invaluable to him here.

He says that owing to the rapid decrease in wild animals the world over, and the inability of people to study them in their native haunts, the demand for zoological gardens in being felt in all large cites, and those not yet having a zoo are preparing to establish one; their educational advantages are unlimited. He thinks Boston is particularly fortunate in having the great Parkman fund to help it with its work of establishing a zoo here.

[skip section about Mr Benson]

He took the Globe representative over the section of Franklin park to be devoted to the zoological garden, and showed him just where the men are engaged in grading and blasting for the bear dens, which is almost opposite Humbolt av, on the Seaver-st side of the park. It is an ideal location for the dens, which are to be made as natural as possible, consistent with proper drainage, etc.

Bids for the construction of the largest flying cage in the world are to be opened May 29 and it is expected that the cage will be completed and it feathered inhabitants in place by next May. This cage will be so large that it will entirely enclose six or eight great towering elms, now growing on the site, and the trees will be left undisturbed within the cage.

Dimensions of the Cage.

An idea of the size of this cage can be had from the fact that the cage in the Bronx park in New York is 132 feet long and 55 feet high, while that to be built at Franklin park will be 190 feet long and 56 feet high, or nearly 10 feet longer than the one in New York.

Plans have just been completed for the bear cages and dens, and the foundation work for these is already in progress. The cages will be completed and the animals installed in them by next year. There will be four of these great bear cages, with opportunity for more if desirable and accommodations will be provided for 23 or more bears. These cages will be built in Long Crough woods, near Seaver st.

The cages will be arranged in a great semicircle, before which is to be an open court, approached by a broad flight of steps. There is to be a fountain in the open court. About 10 feet from the front of the cages will be a barrier to prevent people getting too close to the animals, and between that and the cages will be a mass of low shrubbery. All four cages will have pools of about 20 feet width for the bears to swim in, and natural conditions will be simulated within the cages as much as possible. There will be trees within the cages, but they will be provided with guards to prevent the bears climbing and destroying them.

Each cage will be 90 feet in depth, not including the den portion, which will project from the rear. One cage is to be 130 feet long and the others about 90 feet long. Upon the suggestion of Mr Benson a drainage system will be installed so that the cages can be kept perfectly clean at all times.

Almost in front of the bear cages, under a great natural bowlder(sic) which is to act as a background for the cage, will be built the quarters of the lynx group. As little ironwork as possible will be used, but of necessity some must be visible, in the various cages. Next summer a great bird house is to be erected for winter quarters, and it will be ready to receive them by the time they most be taken in from the flying cage.

Mr Benson has already been in correspondence with a number of persons to secure animals and birds for the new zoo. In fact, at Franklin park there is a small black bear from Main, which has been donated to the new zoo by a Boston newspaper man. This bear was one year old last February. Other offers of bear, buffalo, elk and a wolf have already been made by a person wishing to donate them.

Mr Benson, in the work he has been doing at the park up to this time, has been given quarters in the office of supt Pettigrew, but he expects to change to the Overlook building and to share the rooms of the park police until some permanent offices are assigned the curator of the zoo.

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