One of the first elephant shows
Columbian Park is one of Lafayette's oldest places for leisure activities. For well over 100 years the park on Main Street has served residents of Greater Lafayette and the surrounding areas in Tippecanoe and adjacent counties. It was originally named Reservoir Park or Glick Lake, but was changed in 1892 after the great Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The city fathers wanted the name changed in order to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus.
In 1908, the Zoo was established and the main Animal House was constructed in 1928. One of the first occupants of the Animal House was Linco, an elephant purchased from the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus at Peru, Indiana. Nearly 10,000 students from Greater Lafayette raised funds to purchase the elephant. Because the students from Lincoln School exceeded their fundraising quota, they earned the honor of changing the elephant's name from Ruth to Linco.
During the years through 1943, the Zoo was home to lions, monkeys, elk, eagles, elephant, zebra, bears and, incredibly, nine alligators! In 1988, the Zoo added a walk-through aviary for its growing assortment of birds. When the Zoo closed for renovation in 2004, it housed for nearly 150 animals, representing over 70 different species including lemurs, spider monkeys, gibbons, lynx, mountain lions, New Guinea Singing Dogs, prairie dogs, parrots, a boa constrictor, a bearded dragon and more. Some of those animals were placed with other zoos and sanctuaries and a few of them have returned since the Zoo reopened. Upon completion of the new Zoo, the collection is estimated to include over 250 animals.
Local children riding Linco
The Zoo reopened in 2007 and the community outreach programs have increased substantially. The traveling Education programs are brought to schools, churches, special groups, organizations, nursing homes and hospitals. Major funding has been secured through the City of Lafayette Parks and Recreation Department as well as various public and private partnerships. However, additional funding is necessary to complete the Zoo's Master Plan Project. In order to supply that supplemental funding, Friends of Columbian Park Zoo was formed in 1976. Their role is integral to the Zoo's Master Plan and continuing operational and developmental programs.
CPZ History Pictures