In 2002 The Marjorie McNeely Conservatory gets a new name and a generous endowment fund created by the McNeely family. In her lifetime, Marjorie McNeely was a president of the St. Paul Garden Club and a long-time supporter of the historic Como Conservatory.
In 2020 If it’s been awhile since your last visit to Como Park Zoo and Conservatory, you’ll be amazed by the transformation that’s taken place on Como Harbor in the heart of Como Zoo. This long-awaited improvement made fast progress in 2020, with a new amphitheater, year-round salt water pools and a naturalistic Pacific Northwest feel that’s nearly complete. “If there’s a silver lining to this time of uncertainty at Como, it would be that it gave construction crews a chance to make great progress on Como Harbor without inconveniencing our guests as much as we’d expected it to in 2020,” says Sticha.
Contributions from Como Friends also enabled Como to move ahead on a floor to ceiling renovation of the Aquatic Animals building, removing the historic fish tanks, and replacing them with more engaging microhabitats for lion fish and even a giant Pacific octopus. The steady pace of progress on both projects turned out to be an unexpected attraction for Como’s reservation-only visitors this summer. “Visitors were very excited to see how far construction on Como Harbor has come, and told us how much they are looking forward to seeing and experiencing these improvements in 2021,” Sticha says. “During a challenging year, it was wonderful to see such a visible sign of what Como’s future will be.”
One of the last FREE zoos in the United States, Como is home to a wide array of animals and plants and welcomes visitors 365 days a year. Located right next to Como Town Amusement Park, Cafesjian’s historic carousel, and Como Park, the Zoo and Conservatory are great fun for visitors of all ages.
Some of Como’s main attractions include a world-class polar bear exhibit, Polar Bear Odyssey, which opened to the public in 2010. The exhibit is home to the zoo’s twin polar bears Buzz and Neil and features over 13,000 square feet of outdoor habitat. The zoo is also home to a collection of large cats, hoofstock, wolves, birds, primates, gorillas, orangutans, seals and sea lions, and several other aquatic animals. The Marjorie McNeely Conservatory features six indoor gardens and several outdoor spaces, displaying thousands of beautiful plants each year. For more information about our attractions and to plan your visit, view our visitor guide at http://www.comozooconservatory.org/plan/#/visitor-guide.
Saint Paul Police Historical Society: “Como Park, which bears the just distinction of being the most beautiful public summer resort of its size and kind in America, embraces 402 acres. It is under the direct control of the Board of Park Commissioners and the immediate supervision of Frederick Nussbaumer, the superintendent of parks. Besides being city property, available for park purposes, Lake Como did not figure largely in the scenic and social annals of St. Paul until 1891, when the park commissioners assumed entire charge of parks. Before this, from 1873, to 1891, the city council had directed all park improvements and little had been done toward enhancing the natural beauty of Como. In 1891, however, with Mr. Nussbaumer in charge, the little lake and its shores experienced a wonderful change. And never since that time has the hand of improvement halted until today Como stands unrivalled, a spot as nearly perfect as an earthly Adam and Eve could wish it.”
For over one hundred years, Como Park has played a vital role in meeting the recreational needs of residents of Saint Paul and surrounding communities. Inspired in part by the landscape designs of H.W.S. Cleveland, Frederick Nussbaumer, Superintendent of Parks from 1891 to 1922, worked tirelessly to create an outdoor haven for the area’s urban population. Nussbaumer strongly advocated for a wide variety of free or reasonably priced recreational activities, services, and educational opportunities for all park visitors. The park as we know it today continues to carry out this original vision.
Like all treasures, Como Park Zoo and Conservatory requires a special kind of care—a constant presence committed to safeguarding its history and securing its future.
Every year, community contributions to Como Friends’ annual fund make it possible to invest more than $1.5 million in improvements and general operations of the historic Como Zoo and the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory, providing the extra care and feeding that keeps this natural wonder growing strong.