Did You Know Terrace Park Once Had Lions? Yes, Real Lions.
Here's an interesting historical note for the Sioux Empire: some longtime residents of Sioux Falls would remember that lions once lived at Terrace Park.
Before there was a Great Plains Zoo, Sioux Falls had a couple of small zoos with a handful of exotic animals. And in the 1950s and 1960s, the city's two most famous lions, Leo and Lena, needed a place to stay warm in the cold winter since the zoos only had outdoor enclosures.
The quartzite garage of the old Phillip's house at Terrace Park was the ticket. It had an old potbelly stove in it to keep them warm over the long winter.
According to an Argus Leader article from 2017, a former Sioux Falls park assistant named Herb Dohman drove the lions to their winter home in an old Chevy pickup. And it seems Leo and Lena wanted to let their neighbors know they were there. Their roars were reported to have been heard for over a half-mile and every direction.
So, the Lion’s Den Overlook at Terrace Park is not just a name picked at random. Actual lions wintered there. But today, the structure is in poor condition.
According to the Sioux Falls Parks Department, the concrete roof has been temporarily stabilized but will need attention in the future to prevent further deterioration or possible collapse. A proposed plan suggests removing and salvaging existing quartzite stone and reconstructing the structure in the exact location and size.
Currently, the basement is used to store lawnmowers and park equipment. I hope at least the mowers are Cub Cadets to hang on to this little sliver of the relatively unknown history of the park.
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