Monday, June 11, 2012

Early Columbus Zoo

The Columbus Zoological Company was incorporated in 1895. It acquired the beautiful beech forest west of High Street and south of Rathbone. Next to the forest, they built an amusement park complete with figure-eight roller coaster, a shooting gallery, a dance pavilion, theater, clubhouse with slot machines, a boathouse, bathhouse, and bathing beach. The Weisheimer Dam just below made a fine pool. Seals swam in a little lake in Rustic Bridge ravine and two monkey houses were well-stocked. There were circular bear cages and a rock pit held snakes. Unfortunately, all this enterprise lasted only ten years. The first Columbus Zoo was carted away or destroyed. In 1905, the land was sold to Joseph Jeffrey who built his summer home, Beechwalde, the German spelling for beech forest. But the zoo superintendent’s house still stood. Jeffrey used some parts of it to build a house for one of his associates in 1908. Both these houses still stand, though they have had several owners and remodelings. Jeffrey sold the land in 1918 to the Charles F. Johnson Realty Company. The company developed the former zoo property and then private estate into an exclusive community called Beechwold. This still exists today. An area east of High Street and south of Morse was originally called “Zooland Addition.” Developed about 1902, its streets were named for animals: Beechmont was Leopard, Foster was Armadillo, Sharon was Moose, Beech Hill was Lion, Colerain was Otter. Elk still remains. Of course, Royal Forest still exists on both sides of High Street. And this area still carries the spirit of Bill Moose, a Native American who lived in a shack near the corner of Morse and Sinclair until 1937. Christine Hayes

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