The Bear Pits of Fairground Park

Note: This is one of the original “Facebook posts” from November, 2011. This was the first of my “history finds” that were posted on Facebook and eventually led to this creation of this blog. Back then, I went on a long bike ride in north St. Louis. I rode through Fairground Park and saw this structure.  I was fascinated to learn later its original purpose and figured others would also like to know.  That’s how this all got going. I have plans to expand on all of the original “Facebook” history finds in the near future. I’ll add more pictures, history, and hopefully a drink story. Hang tight for those.

I have been reading about St. Louis history quite a bit lately. I have also been driving/biking around to find interesting historical areas. I’m going to start posting some pics of the cool places I find, since I think more people need to know about historical shit and look at them through pretty photo app filters.

Recognize this? Drive north on Grand and you’ll pass Fairground Park, the location of St. Louis’s first zoo, founded in 1876. The zoo had a monkey house, a carnivore house and other attractions. This structure, the facade of the bear pits, is all that remains.

Bear Pit Facade

3 comments on “The Bear Pits of Fairground Park”

  1. When exactly do you know the bear pit castle was built? It’s not visible in an isometric aerial map of the city that was produced in 1885. I would think it might have been built by then if the other zoo attraction were in place by 1876 as you say.

    Also, in that aerial view of Fairground Park is a racetrack with fences and horses running at the extreme west end of the park. Not until 1895 was the 15,000 seat grandstand erected on the tracks western side.

    1. Could you be referring to the Compton & Dry Pictorial St. Louis map? That map shows the jockey club you refer to, but it was drawn/published in 1875, not 1885. I don’t know when the bear pit wall was built, and that brief post was written long before I really got into the heavy research with the blog. I’ll try to find out, though!

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