From about 1900 to the early 1940s Jenner’s Zoological, Educational and Amusement Park in Loup City was a place for central Nebraska to gather, play, and learn. Brothers Henry and Robert Jenner, the founders of what was usually referred to as Jenner’s Park, were natives of England.
Henry Jenner’s home at Loup City was a seven-acre section of land forming a horseshoe-shaped depression along Dead Horse Creek. Eventually the area was improved and opened to the public as a park “for picnics and private parties.” Henry Jenner wanted his park to provide not only recreation but education for families. Admission price for the day during the early years of the park was ten cents for adults, with some games and amusement rides inside requiring separate tickets. A pavilion was constructed for dancing and to house the acquisitions of the Jenner brothers, who were tireless travelers and collectors. The Mummy House, constructed in 1909, reflected the brothers’ interest in Egyptology. The park theater, added in 1912 for the Fourth of July celebration, hosted vaudeville acts, many by local talent. When electricity came to Loup City, Jenner’s Park was one of the first places wired.
From the beginning Jenner’s Park housed a zoo. Included were such exotic species as leopards, alligators, monkeys, bears, and a large collection of birds. Many of the cages were works of art, with the monkey cage, built in 1924, a small replica of a Chinese pagoda. The park also included some specialized botanical features, including a fernery built of rocks. Shade trees served to cool the park, important before the days of air conditioning.
Jenner’s Park also offered its visitors rides and games. The ocean wave or circle swing, added in 1906, could seat forty people as it revolved and dipped. The athletic grounds contained a giant’s stride, horizontal bars, croquet grounds, a box-ball alley, and shooting galleries. During the colder months amusements were disassembled and stored, and animals housed in winter quarters.
Between 1905 and the early 1930s the park was a growing, vital segment of the life of the Loup City area. It was an important summer attraction in central Nebraska. However, by the time of Robert Jenner’s death in 1940, the park business had declined, due primarily to the inability of the brothers to continue the operation as they aged. It was closed in 1942.
More information on Jenner’s Park is available in an online article from Nebraska History magazine. – Patricia C. Gaster, Assistant Editor / Publications