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Home > Our City > Buffalo My City > Buffalo My City Watercolors > 23-A Lulu and Her Companion (1992)

23-A Lulu and Her Companion (1992)


Narrative by - David M. Rote
(Narratives are copyrighted)

The Buffalo Zoological Gardens, officially established in 1894, actually had its origins in 1870 when a pair of deer, a gift to the city of Buffalo, were permitted to graze on the estate of Elam Jewett located at the intersection of what is now Jewett and Parkside Avenues.

Mr. Jewett's longtime friend, Buffalo mayor William Rogers, was an instrumental figure in securing landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted to design a public park area for the city of Buffalo. The two deer grazed on The Meadows at the northeast portion of what was originally called North Park and later became the present Delaware Park. Over the next few years other animals were added which included bison and elk. The 17 acre zoological gardens became a reality in 1894.

In 1900, a 2,000 pound, six year old Indian elephant named Big Frank was donated to the zoo by Frank H. Goodyear, a Buffalo lumber magnate, as the Garden's first elephant. During the Pan-American Exposition in 1901, Big Frank was a great drawing card. In 1912, largely through the efforts of Mr. Goodyear, a permanent elephant house, designed by Esenwein and Johnson, was built at a cost of $54,000 and over the main entrance to the building is the sculpted head of an elephant, perhaps of Big Frank himself, executed by Ira Lake. Big Frank was to live to age 45, dying in 1939. That same year, the Ismailia Shriners presented an elephant to the city that had been a part of the Cole Brothers Circus. This elephant was named Koko and continued the tradition of Big Frank in drawing big crowds.

Lulu, the subject of this watercolor, was born in Siam and was 3 years old when she joined Koko in July of 1953. With the death of Koko the following year at age 60, Lulu became the mainstay of the elephant exhibit. She was gentle and inquisitive according to trainer Michael LoVullo who appears with her. Shortly after completion of this painting, Lulu was taken ill and died on November 15, 1992 at the age of 42.