Longfellow Zoological Gardens

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Longfellow Zoological Gardens
A man in a top hat and suit performs from a dais with a seal and two pelicans before a small crowd
Jones, center, performs with a seal and two pelicans in 1917 at the Longfellow Gardens
Date opened1906; 116 years ago (1906)
Date closed1934; 88 years ago (1934)
LocationMinnehaha in Minnesota, United States
Coordinates44°54′56″N 93°12′53″W / 44.91556°N 93.21472°W / 44.91556; -93.21472Coordinates: 44°54′56″N 93°12′53″W / 44.91556°N 93.21472°W / 44.91556; -93.21472

The Longfellow Zoological Gardens (sometimes simply called the Longfellow Gardens) were a zoo and garden in Minneapolis's Minnehaha neighborhood in Minnesota, United States.[1]


A Minneapolis businessman and showman named Robert "Fish" Jones first bought a property near the edge of downtown Minneapolis in 1886.[2] He converted the 3-acre (12,000 m2) property into a zoo for the animals which he had collected since his arrival in Minneapolis in 1876.[3] These included lions, jaguars, leopards, bears, cattle and a camel.[3] The number of animals he kept, however, soon grew and Jones was forced to move from the property on Hennepin Avenue to an area in south Minneapolis.[2] Then, in 1906, he opened the zoo to the public. He also built a house styled after the home of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, where he lived for the rest of his life.

In 1908, in a ceremony presided over by Minnesota Representative Frank Nye, Jones and a group of others were honored by a letter from Alice M. Longfellow, the daughter of the poet, noting her wish to some day come and visit the gardens.[1] She never came, however.


The zoo was popular, and continued to grow as Jones eventually added zebras, monkeys, orangutans and a polar bear which was said to have come from Norway.[1] Jones had a professional trainer to work with the 8 lions, but also on occasion would enter the cage with them himself. In general, his care and affection for the animals was of note.[4] He also had a wide array of birds from the grey crowned crane to the flamingo to the storks. The zoo was also known for its seals.[1] A man-eating tiger, personally captured by animal collector Frank Buck in Johore, was part of the collection.[5]

Later years[edit]

The zoo continued to prosper, although complaints from neighbors about noise and smell were perpetual.[2] The zoo continued to draw crowds, however, with intriguing wildlife for adults, and monkeys which were the center point of the zoo for many children.[1]

In 1930, Jones died.[6] His family tried to keep his zoo open, but failed and the zoo had to be closed down. Many of the animals were sold or given the Como Zoo in St. Paul and in 1934, the land where the zoo once stood was given to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.[2] It was rumored that several seals escaped the zoo over the Minnehaha Falls into the nearby creek, although this was never proven.[3]

The land where the zoo once stood is now residential.[7]


  1. ^ a b c d e Jones, Robert (1927). Longfellow Gardens Guide (17th ed.). Minneapolis.
  2. ^ a b c d Benidt, Bruce Weir (1984). The Library Book. Minneapolis: Minneapolis Public Library and Information Center. ISBN 0-9613716-0-9.
  3. ^ a b c Ritter, Peter (1999-05-12). "Lions, Oysters, and Bears: A Fishmonger's Tale". City Pages. Archived from the original on 2007-08-15. Retrieved 2008-05-02.
  4. ^ Haskin, Frederic (September 24, 1921). "'The Haskin Daily Letter – A Private Zoo'". South Bend Tribune. p. 6.
  5. ^ Buck, Frank (2006-05-30). "Maneater". Bring 'em Back Alive: The Best of Frank Buck. Texas Tech University Press. p. 68. ISBN 978-0-89672-582-9. Retrieved 17 November 2010.
  6. ^ "'R.F. Jones, Zoo Founder, Buried'". The Minneapolis Star. October 18, 1930. p. 14.
  7. ^ "Primary Zoning Districts" (PDF). City of Minneapolis. 2005-12-23. Retrieved 2008-05-02.

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