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Our History


The idea of a zoo in Springfield began with Henson C. Robinson. After his father's death, his son Philip Robinson decided to hire a designer and consultant to develop plans for a zoo.  In 1966 the Springfield Park District decided to build a children's zoo. 

The large concrete turtle near the pond became the official symbol of the zoo because the zoo’s development and construction went particularly slowly.  Even the first zoo brochure printed in 1968 bore the likeness of a smiling turtle wearing a zookeeper's cap with "Children's Zoo" printed on it.  The common perception at the time was that the turtle symbolized that the zoo had arrived (slowly, but surely). 

Historical Highlights

  • The Henson C. Robinson Children's Zoo in Springfield, Illinois, opened its doors to the public on August 29, 1970.   

  • The Springfield Zoological Society was formed in 1972.   

  • In 1974, the name was changed from "Henson C. Robinson Children's Zoo" to "Springfield Park District Zoo," because zoo officials believed that the name discouraged adults from visiting the zoo.   

  • The zoo's name was changed again in 1975 when it was renamed the "Henson Robinson Zoo". 


Our future promises to hold great things both for the zoo and our community! We are looking forward to revamped educational programming which will encompass kids, adults, families, and teachers to ensure we are serving the needs of everyone in the district and beyond!


Our History

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