Washington Park Zoo's old greenhouse may be demolished

2013-03-30T00:00:00Z Washington Park Zoo's old greenhouse may be demolishedStan Maddux Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
March 30, 2013 12:00 am  • 

MICHIGAN CITY | Monkey Island and other features at Washington Park Zoo were built to help create jobs during the Great Depression.

One of the symbols of President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal designed to lift the country out of severe economic hardship could vanish to make way for new construction.

What's known as the old greenhouse at the zoo likely will be demolished and replaced with a central office for emergency responders during major lakefront events.

Mayor Ron Meer said the building is so dilapidated, converting it into a new major events headquarters probably isn't feasible.

"Right now, we're looking at whether it's worth renovating or just do a total reconstruction," Meer said. The old greenhouse has been vacant for many years and is used for storage.

The building, along with Monkey Island and the six-story observation tower, were funded with Works Progress Administration dollars, said LaPorte County historian Fern Eddy Schultz.

Schultz said the old greenhouse, along with an administration building and garage, were built on the same parcel in 1933.

"Like many other structures, sometimes they outlive their usage. I presume they need something more up to date and useful to what they want to do," Schultz said.

Meer said the major events office would house computers and other technology to operate surveillance cameras within the park. The city's summer festival committee also would use the new facility for storage. Other purposes include providing a base for emergency responders to go to formulate strategy and get supplies during times of urgency or simply to use the break room and shower facilities.

Meer said parking lot employees and seasonal workers also would be able to use the facility.

Meer expects a decision on the old greenhouse by the end of April.

No official cost estimates have been obtained, but the expense of either restoration or building new will be several hundreds of thousands of dollars, Meer said.

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