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  • Stacy DeKeyser

Then and Now: What the Washington Park Zoo looks like today

Not too long ago, I visited Washington Park in Milwaukee to see what's left of the old zoo. It was abandoned in 1960, when Milwaukee County opened a new zoo on Bluemound Road.


But Washington Park is still there, at the corner of 47th and Vliet streets, and the southwest corner of the park, where the zoo once stood, will reveal a few secrets--if you know where to look.



Here's a map of the Washington Park Zoo, from around 1940. (photo courtesy of the Milwaukee County Zoo archives) In the book, Tank's yard is where the buffalo yard is. The Scramble field is between the buffalo (rhino) yard and Sheep Mountain.

THEN: An aerial view of the Washington Park Zoo in about 1940, looking east. The street going across the bottom of the photo is 47th Street. The street at the right edge of the photo is Vliet Street.

NOW: A similar view today, courtesy of Google Maps. Note the freeway (labeled "175") now in place. The curve of Washington Boulevard is recognizable, and some of the paths echo the paths and roads of the original zoo.

THEN: Looking south across Vliet Street, down 43rd Street, circa 1950. (photo courtesy of the Milwaukee County Zoo Archives)


NOW: Here's the same view, taken in 2017. The buildings on the 2 corners are the same in both photos.



THEN: The buffalo (bison) yard, around 1940. Note the stone retaining wall and chain link fence-- just like the one Nick hopped to rescue his baseball from the rhino pen! (photo courtesy of the Milwaukee County Zoo archives)

NOW: No more buffalo! But the wall and fence are still there, and so is the little road behind it.

THEN: Mountain Goat Mountain, around 1940. (photo courtesy of the Milwaukee County Zoo archives)

NOW: Nothing left of Mountain Goat Mountain--except the mountain.


This is the street where Nick and Ace lived. (I don't have a THEN version, sorry!)

Nick's house (right) and Ace's house (left). The front porches have been enclosed in the intervening years. Can you just imagine Nick and Ace leaning out that upstairs window, hollering at Pete and the gang?

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