Greetings From Washington Park

A postcard history of Washington Park in Milwaukee

Washington Park boating pondMilwaukee County Parks

Illustrated color postcards were the early 20th century version of a text message, and scenic view of parks were a popular topic.

Washington Park lily pondMilwaukee County Parks

These postcards, such as this view of a cyclist by the Washington Park lily pond, can help tell the story of Milwaukee County Parks too.

Washington Park stone bridgeMilwaukee County Parks

Washington Park, originally called West Park, was one of the first land purchases by the Milwaukee Parks Commission.

Washington Park boating and bridgeMilwaukee County Parks

Original designs for the park were developed by the firm of Frederick Law Olmsted, who were hired to also design Lake and Riverside parks.

Washington Park boatingMilwaukee County Parks

Early features in the park included a boating lake, boathouse, stone bridges and even a six hole golf course.

Washington Park boatingMilwaukee County Parks

Visitors could rent a row boat for 10c for each half hour.

Washington Park rustic pavilionMilwaukee County Parks

This rustic gazebo was used as the park's first band stand. Free concerts attracted thousands of visitors.

Washington Park zooMilwaukee County Parks

In the 1890's a deer paddock formed the origins of the Washington Park zoo. Over the next 20 years the zoo grew as animals were donated.

Washington Park sea lionsMilwaukee County Parks

By 1906 the zoo had 75 animals and it continued to grow, adding displays such as this sea lion pool.

Washington Park monkey islandMilwaukee County Parks

Monkey Island was added to the zoo in 1925.

Washington Park polar bearsMilwaukee County Parks

The first polar bears arrived at the zoo in 1912 and in 1919, a polar bear named Zero became the first polar bear born in captivity in North America.

Washington Park polar bearsMilwaukee County Parks

In April 1921, a polar bear named Clown, managed to climb over the fence and walked through local neighborhoods.

Washington Park zooMilwaukee County Parks

The zoo remained at Washington Park until a new zoo location opened in 1963.

Washington Park Temple of MusicMilwaukee County Parks

In addition to the zoo, Washington Park was home to a race track, ice skating and the 'Temple of Music' band shell.

Designed by Milwaukee architect Fitzhugh Scott, the bandshell, was funded by a $100,000 donation from beer baron Emil Blatz. More than 40,000 people came for opening night on Aug. 23, 1938.

Credits: Story

Images from the Milwaukee County Parks Postcard collection

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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