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🐻 Remembering Billy Bryan the black bear



The Legacy Of Billy Bryan And Bear Mountain 

Today, I’ve got a helping of Denver history for you. And it’s about one of my favorite places in the whole city — the Denver Zoo.

On the long list of Denver’s most prominent historical figures, there is Billy Bryan the black bear.

Billy Bryan the black bear. [Photo courtesy of the Western History Department at Denver Public Library]

Billy Bryan was a gift to Denver Mayor Thomas McMurray in 1896. Though at first he was displayed in a small cage in the center of City Park, he was the impetus for forming the Denver Zoo as we know it today, one of the nation’s industry leaders.

In the years after Billy Bryan’s debut, the city found companions for him in other native animals, including deer, elk, bison, moose, bighorn sheep, wolves, and mountain lions — all on display for free at City Park.

By 1910, it became clear that the city had more than just a roadside attraction on its hands, and the first iteration of the Denver Zoo began to take form. Officials were inspired to create a “habitat zoo” modeled after Carl Hagenbeck’s famous zoo in Germany, which was the first zoo to move away from Victorian-style cages and toward a more naturalistic approach.

Thus, in 1918, the early zoo’s keepers created a new habitat for the city’s collection of bears, built using molds of a rocky outcrop near Morrison to imitate the animals’ natural environment. It cost the city $50,000 and earned the Denver Zoo national recognition as the first zoo in the U.S. to use naturalistic design, now an industry standard.

The original Bear Mountain. [Photo courtesy of the Western History Department at Denver Public Library]
Bear Mountain today. [Peyton Garcia, City Cast Denver]

Today, Bear Mountain still stands at the Denver Zoo (only now it houses a porcupine), and holds a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.

At 126 years old, the Denver Zoo continues to be a leader in species conservation and wildlife education with field work initiatives taking place around the world. It was one of the first zoos to be accredited through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and remains a Denver institution, still located right in the center of City Park where it all started with Billy Bryan.

Wanna know more? If you liked today’s brief history of the zoo, stay tuned for Friday, when we’ll be diving even deeper into the education and conservation efforts of the Denver Zoo on the City Cast Denver podcast. (You can subscribe here.)

Also, check out my source material for this topic:


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More News You Should Know

🏆 Where to watch the Avs tonight: The first game of the Stanley Cup Finals takes place tonight at 6 p.m. at Ball Arena. If you weren’t able to shell out $1,000+ for a ticket, don’t worry, there are more than a few places hosting watch parties around town. [Denver Post]

🥳 Going to Meow Wolf today? By its careful calculations, the museum is expecting its 1 millionth guest to arrive today at 10:03 a.m. precisely. The lucky ticket holder will be treated to “maximalist fanfare” and “great hubbub,” including a special tour.

☕ Coffee and unions continued: The Starbucks at East Third Avenue and Columbine Street in Cherry Creek just became the seventh Colorado store to unionize. But baristas across the state are alleging union busting tactics and retaliation from the corporate coffee giant. [CPR; CO Sun]

👩‍🍳 Caroline Glover is Colorado’s newest James Beard Award Winner: The chef/owner of Annette took home the title of Best Chef in this year’s Mountain category. She has been nominated three times previously and twice been named a semi-finalist. Annette is located at the Stanley Marketplace and serves modern American small plates with craft cocktails. [Westword]

  • 💬 Restaurants aren’t a luxury, we’re essential, and it’s time for us to start being treated that way,” Glover said in her acceptance speech. 


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Get Those Mile High Summer Vibes On Denver’s Best Patios

“This is a call out to a lot of breweries: String lights, picnic tables, and astroturf do not a patio make.” — Bree Davies

It’s prime outdoor-dining season in Denver. But what, exactly, makes a good patio? Today on the show, host Bree Davies is joined by (me!) newsletter editor and foodie extraordinaire Peyton Garcia to discuss the role of ambiance and a killer view when it comes to judging the perfect patio experience. From our favorite rooftop party spots to those calm, garden-like hideaways, Peyton and Bree share a robust list of restaurants and bars doing outdoor dining in Denver right.

Local Chatter: The Great Scooter Debate 🛴

In yesterday’s newsletter, I asked for your opinions on the Lyft and Lime scooters that zip through the city. 

  • 39.7% of you said “Yes, they ARE a menace!!”
  • 56.4% of you said “They’re fine, don’t be a fun-killer”
  • And only 3.8% of you didn’t have an opinion on the matter. 

Reader Tim. K shared their experience with scooters:

“Well, I’m totally blind and use a cane to get around, which means I can’t tell I’m about to walk into one. If people could be counted upon to park them using some semblance of care, I wouldn’t have a problem. But, since they clearly can’t be, I want them gone in the worst way. That dude who’s been blacking out the QR codes is my hero!”

Reader Elizabeth S. says:

“How about option D: scooters themselves are fine and can be a great way to move around the city, but they should probably be speed-limited, especially in pedestrian-heavy areas, and our city infrastructure needs to improve (e.g. more protected bike lanes, which I would be happy to share with scooters!)”

🗣️ Have thoughts on something we’ve covered on the podcast or in the newsletter? You can always write in to, or call and leave a voicemail at 720-500-5418

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