Editor's note: Portions of this article have been previously published on the author's website.
SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City’s Hogle Zoo moved from its original Liberty Park location to its current mountainside residence near the mouth of Emigration Canyon in 1931. However, less than five years later there was a seldom reported effort to move the zoo back to Liberty Park.
“Plans to move Zoo to Liberty Park Indorsed (sic)” was an April 24, 1936, headline in the Salt Lake Telegram newspaper.
A petition signed by a large group of Salt Lake residents sparked the proposal to return to Liberty Park. The petition not only stated that the park was a more central location for the zoo but also noted that some animals — especially Princess Alice, the elephant — were homesick for their former home.
Indeed, an April 29, 1936, Salt Lake Telegram headline stated, “Princess Alice pining for Liberty Park, says ‘Dutch’ Shider, once her trainer.”
“She isn’t happy at the Gardens,” Shider said. “She pines for Liberty Park.”
In 1936, there were 93 animals and 133 fowls housed at the zoo. (However, strangely the bears were not moved from Liberty Park and resided there alone for some years.)
Harold B. Lee, Salt Lake Commissioner of Streets and Public Improvements, said he wanted to see the zoo in a place where the greatest majority of the people desire it.
The zoo had resided at Liberty Park for nearly 25 years.
Not mentioned at the time were controversies that happened soon after the move to the mouth of Emigration Canyon. For example, the water supply to the zoo was cut off in 1934 for failure to pay a $195 bill. The zoo’s flamboyant superintendent threatened to turn all the animals loose if the water was not turned back on — and service was soon restored.
In addition, some of the original zoo buildings at its mountainside location were not first class, or well-kept.
Yet, the zoo remained at the mouth of Emigration Canyon, where it has expanded today to become one of the largest animal collections in the western states.
Salt Lake City also had several large loose animal incidents in the early 20th century and we’re not talking about cougars, deer or moose, but elephants and buffalo.
• “Elephant flees from zoo; Captured after a long race; Princess Alice escapes from Park and enjoys brief jaunt in hills” was a Nov. 15, 1916, headline in the Salt Lake Tribune.
The elephant got as far as Parleys Canyon and was adorned with a necklace or barb wire and chicken fence. During her jaunt, she had waded through various fences as though they were weeds. She also overturned outhouses in her path and went through a barn.
No one was hurt in what the newspaper termed “a lively escapade,” but the elephant was bleeding in a few places from the wire fences.
The newspaper stated: “The path of the elephant's night was lined with astonished gazers, who stood long and looked in the direction in which she had vanished. Small boys followed until they were winded. Automobiles took up the chase and were lost in the network of roads to the eastward. A considerable crowd was in at the capture.”
This would not be the last time Princess Alice would escape. She broke loose and roamed 700 East periodically, putting the community in an uproar. A menagerie of clothing often adorned the pachyderm’s back after she ran through various backyard clothesline in the area. Her jaunts were a major reason Hogle Zoo is located where it is today — further away from downtown.
The elephant’s offspring, named Prince Utah, also got loose from Liberty Park, as an Aug. 5, 1918, story in the Salt Lake Herald reported.
“Mother hard to comfort until her offspring is brought back,” was part of the Herald’s headline.
Also, on Nov. 15, 1931, the three-ton elephant had rebelled, injured a trainer and demolished a wooden trailer that was to move her to the new zoo site, near Emigration Canyon.
A Telegram story from Sept. 25, 1935, reported that Princess Alice didn’t leave the zoo grounds but that overnight she had broken her chain and smashed through a steel railing, enjoying “a night out” at Hogle Gardens Zoo.
• “Buffalo runs wild through S.L. streets; Women and children rush from path of crazed frontier beast” was a Salt Lake Telegram headline on July 23, 1931.
The 1,800-pound beast was in town for Pioneer Day, then called Covered Wagon Days, got loose after its rope broke at the State Fairgrounds and ended up being captured near the city dump, west of Redwood Road. It had snorted furiously and sent many people scurrying to safety. Forty cowboys and squadron of police were involved in the chase.
• Salt Lake City is not the only Utah city with loose animal incidents: “Gorilla at large” was headline in the Ogden Herald on Sept. 16, 1887. Somehow, a gorilla from a circus at Union Square had gotten loose just after dark and disappeared. Men were searching with torches trying to find the animal at a late hour.
Two days later, on Sept. 18, it was reported in the Standard that the gorilla had eventually been found, happily eating at a bakery on the lower side of town.