Benson Park, Hudson

Elephant Barn and future museum at Benson Park

Elephant Barn and future museum at Benson Park

The latest issue of the Hippo informed me that the one-time zoo known as Benson’s Animal Farm in Hudson, NH, re-opened as Benson Park several years ago. Today I went to visit it for the first time since it had closed as a zoo. It put me in mind of the section called “Fossiles” from Saint-Saëns’ “Carnival of the Animals.” Almost everything is gone, of course including all the zoo animals. The gorilla house is still there, and the cage where “Colossus” once lived is open to visitors. Inside, I saw two small cells in back that looked like substandard solitary confinement cells. What I remembered best was the elephant barn, which is being converted into a museum.

Gorilla Cell, Benson Park

Gorilla Cell, Benson Park

A Renaissance sculpture called, I think, “The Fountain of Achilles” was once on the grounds, neglected toward the end of the zoo’s life. It depicted a chariot in motion and didn’t remind me of a fountain; I suppose it must have been part of one in its original setting. I’d sometimes climb on it to remove accumulating leaves, since no one else was; this was technically forbidden, but no one ever objected. On the positive side, the giant Mighty Mouse statue, from the zoo’s final desperate attempt to recast itself as an amusement park, is also gone.

The park is well maintained and lots of people were there. It was rather sad to see, but I’m glad something of the old zoo is still there. In 2006, I added some substantial information to the Wikipedia entry on Benson’s, working from a book at the Hudson Library, and at least parts of what I wrote are still there.

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