Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Old Franklin Park Zoo

Poking around on the internet tonight I ran across this link with some great pics of the old Franklin Park Zoo located in Jamaica Plain.

A book published as part of the Images of America series "Franklin Park" also contains some great images of this old zoo when it was actually a functioning city attraction. 

Some other great pictures (including architectural drawings for zoo buildings) can also be found by searching Franklin Park on the Library of Congress' American Memory web site.

It's also interesting to note that parts of the old zoo were used in the film Mystic River based on Dennis Lehane's best selling novel. I remember watching that movie and thinking, "Wait a minute, they just jumped from a generic street in South Boston to JP?!?" A bit of film making magic, I guess but the way the old zoo has over grown does lend itself to the sort of place a villian would perform eveil deeds.
  There is a walk of approx 1/4 to 1/2 mile that spans the old cages with the sounds of heavy traffic on Blue Hill Ave right behind on the other side. There are many deep pits along that walk that used to house smaller animals. Those pits are now full of old tires, growling trees and other brambles and human junk. (I even found an old torn apart heavy duty safe in a revine in that area. It's a beautiful park but those pits really lent themselves to being a great place for folks over the decades to dump unwanted stuff of all sorts.         

From the mid 1990's to about 2000 I lived just down the street from this location and frequenyly walked my dogs in the large sprawling park and around the zoo ruins.  I took these pictures on one of those walks and wrote the poem beneath them around the same time.

  I'm not sure with all the activity of the latest Kevin James movie shooting at the new Zoo a block or so away that these old cages are still in the same condition that I last saw them around summer 2000 but I kind of like to think they are.
 Looking at these ruins reminds us just how far public zoos have come in their care and housing of wild animals since the old bear cage was opened 100 years ago. Having both the old and the new Franklin Park Zoo so close in location to each other is a great physical illustration on just how far we have come. 

  I wonder what the next 100 year will bring for Franklin Park, I wonder what the next 100 years will bring for public zoos everywhere, Hmmm....   

Leave a scent on the soil
pound through the night
with the heavy footfalls of full grown deer,
the pull of wet dog,
or the pressure of the migrating sun.

Midnight pulse points
push blankets
dripping slowly to the floor,
lazy curtains
turn slowly
in the heat.

I am having trouble sleeping tonight.

The city skin is breeched,
it's weather weary boards
pulled back
and left in pieces on the ground.

Someone else has been here,
left behind
black ink
on the stone cage.

A soft weak man
marks his territory
this way
with the carelessness of an afterthought,
with as much effort
as it takes to pull the trigger
of a tranquilizer.

The night moves with plentiful noise,
the wounded cries of lonely beasts
with the flow of traffic not far away.

These cages no longer have doors.

The entire wild night
is free to roam
past the protection
and the hinderance
of heavy iron bars.

The big cats no longer pace here,

I do.