Saturday, November 21, 2009

A little-seen tunnel to history

A lot of people don't know that for a short period of time in its early history, Garfield Park in Indianapolis had a zoo. I learned this some years ago, after a visit to the conservatory, where I had picked up a brochure that contained a history of the park. The brochure detailed how the park got its start as a horse-racing track and how the city acquired and annexed additional parcels in the years thereafter, including the tract at the southeast corner that now is home to the conservatory, library and tennis courts.

Back to the zoo ... During cold weather months, the animals in this zoo were sheltered in the building that is now the Garfield Park Arts Center, a building that has served many purposes over the years.

I happened to drop in at the center last weekend and got to talking to Lesley Meier-Shore, the center's assistant manager, who gave me a tour of the three-level remodeled facilities, which includes many rooms -- for meetings and learning crafts and musical instruments. The real surprise -- maybe even "gem" -- of the tour came when we got to the boiler room, where we went after I asked Lesley what caused the persistent musty smell I detected throughout the building's two lower levels.

She attributed it to the boiler room and ventilation system. But not only did she show me the boiler room ... but she also led me to a door inside the boiler room that led to a tunnel that she said operators of the zoo, many years ago, used to shuffle animals back and forth from the shelter to the display area. She said the tunnel collapsed at some point after the zoo closed, but that the first 60 feet or so were still in good shape.

That's Lesley in the top picture, standing in the preserved portion of the tunnel just at its one and only bend. The second picture shows you the rest of the remaining tunnel to the door, which was installed at the point where the tunnel collapsed.

One thing that struck me about the tunnel: It didn't seem very wide, so I can't imagine the zoo maintained any of the traditional large beasts -- elephants, rhinos, etc. Then again, perhaps the tunnel was used only for a select number of species kept at the zoo. Pure speculation there ...

No comments:

Post a Comment