PARK

“Creating memories and inspiring appreciation of the natural world.”

We at Como Park Zoo and Conservatory hold everything we do against the expectations laid forth in our mission statement. Every animal exhibit, flower exhibit, education class and youth camp is driven by this statement and our commitment to the community in which we live.

Owned and operated by the Saint Paul Parks and Recreation division, the Como Park is a 384-acre park located within the city. Visitors can experience a wide range of attractions geared towards all age groups. The Park offers a large area surrounding Como Lake dedicated to family and individual activities. Visitors can make use of 1.67 miles of paved paths, a fishing pier, picnic shelters, pavilions, paddleboat rentals, an amusement park, a golf course, a historic carousel, the Como Dockside restaurant and mini-golf.

Como Park’s history dates long before the Como Park Conservatory was constructed.  In the 1840’s, Charles Perry owned, grew potatoes and farmed the land around Lake Como, which at the time was named after Perry’s birthplace in the Swiss-Italian Alps, Sandy Lake.  Eventually Perry moved north. A gentleman by the name of Henry “King of Real Estate Dealers” McKenty, jumped at the opportunity to purchase the land from Perry and renamed it Como Lake after the famous Lake Como in the Italian Alps.

At this time the Minnesota’s Legislature appointed five commissioners, “whose duty it should be to contract for and purchase not less than five hundred, not more than six hundred and fifty, acres of land within a convenient distance of the city of Saint Paul, but beyond the present limits thereof, for a public park.”

The idea of a public park soon became a controversial issue.  Many leaders feared that the city would not be able to financially support such an ambitious park project at a time of depression. Others questioned whether such valuable land should be “wasted” on a park.

Professor H.W.S. Cleveland, a renowned landscape architect, urged Saint Paul and other cities to set aside land for parks before land became scarce and too expensive.  In 1873, three hundred acres of land on the shores of Como Lake was purchased with $100,000 of private money.  Over the next fourteen years the park land changed hands several times and suffered from neglect.

In 1887, City funds were allocated to develop the area into a “landscape park” for “physical and moral satisfaction”. H.W.S. Cleveland was employed to “assess and report to this board (Park Commission) such a design and plan for the improvement of Como Park as he may think best suited to its topography…” The plans made by Cleveland in the late 1880’s promoted the preservation and development of natural features in the park. Cleveland believed parks were spaces for people to escape city life and appreciate nature’s beauty.

The vision that became Como Park Conservatory was born from a German man by the name of Frederick Nussbaumer. Nussbaumer spent his youth working in London’s royal Botanical Gardens, as well as one of the largest tree nurseries in France.  H.W.S. Cleveland was impressed by the horticultural knowledge and experience that Nussbaumer possessed and invited him to work at Como Park as a parks laborer. In 1892, Nussbaumer was named Superintendent of Parks.  He agreed with the naturalistic philosophy of Cleveland, but he also had a vision of a beautiful park with many great opportunities for recreation. During the thirty years Nussbaumer was superintendent, the park saw many great changes.  Floral gardens were added, along with gravel walk ways, ponds, pergolas and fountains.  In 1893, electric railcars reached the park making it easily accessible to all the citizens of St. Paul to enjoy.