The Denver Zoo Celebrates 125 Years All Thanks to a Black Bear Named Billy
On November 9, 2021, the Denver Zoo celebrated its 125th year of entertaining and educating the citizens not only in Denver but the entire region.
With the Denver Zoo celebrating such a wonderful milestone, it's important to look back at the whole endeavor that began with the gift of one bear.
Thomas McMurray was Mayor of Denver for one four-year term, 1895-1899; within his term, in 1896. he was given a bear from a political rival, William Jennings Bryan, who had named the bear 'Billy Bryan;' it was a little political jab from Bryan.
So, here Denver was with this one black bear. They put the bear on display in a cage within Denver's City Park. With that, they'd laid the foundation for what would become one of the most well-known and respected zoos in the country: The Denver Zoo.
DON'T FORGET ABOUT ALFRED HILL
When they brought the bear to City Park, they didn't have a staff of zookeepers, so Billy Bryan was left in the care of park caretaker, Alfred Hill. Imagine, having normally been responsible for the grounds, he was now responsible for... a bear. So, Alfred became Denver's first zookeeper, keeping Billy fed and his cage clean as park visitors would stroll by on their way in.
SPEER'S NOT JUST A STREET IN DENVER
When Robert Speer was running for Mayor of Denver, one of his campaign promises was to 'beautify' Denver; part of that was the 1918 installation of the legendary 'Bear Mountain' at the Denver Zoo. 'Bear Mountain' was crafted after the actual mountainsides in the Morrison area.
With black bears only living about 25 years, it's unclear but likely, that Billy Bear Bryan didn't get to hang out at 'Bear Mountain' by the time it opened.