Official website for the City of Aurora, Illinois. Mayor Robert J. O'Connor

Phillips Park - History Time Line

  • 1835 - Hilly area with wooded coves and lagoons used for picnics and family outings, was originally located south of the city limits.
  • 1860 - Known as “Scharschung’s Woods” up to 1870. The area was a natural playground, consisting of groves and swamps.
  • 1870’s - Known as “Sharp Shooter Park” since the Aurora Sharp Shooter Society, founded by a German group, used the area near the beer garden as a shooting range.
    • That same area later became the golf grounds.
  • 1874 - Ferdinand Dapprich, local downtown tavern owner of German descent, owned the land and used it as a beer garden and later cultivated a vineyard.
    • The property was located at the end of a streetcar line.
    • Sharp Shooter Park listed as 40 acres in the Holland’s Aurora City Directory in 1874.
    • 1876 - advertisement: Ferd. Dapprich, Sample Rooms and Pleasure Grounds, Proprietor of Aurora Shootin Park & Grapery. Homemade Wine etc., etc., for sale.
    • 1884 - Listing in Holland’s Aurora City Directory: Dapprich, Ferd., proprietor of sample room and billiard hall and forty acres of land on the Plainfield road known as “Shooting Park” which he offers for sale at a low price, also a resident of Aurora since 1866, 50 River, res. 38 S. Fourth.
  • 1884 - Dapprich sold property to Dr. Pond, who then sold to State Senator H.H. Evans. Evans, a capitalist and realtor, who also owned the Grand Opera House that opened in 1891.
    • Area could be reached by the Fifth Street Summer Car Line.
    • Aurora Street Railway: ’83 Mule/’93 Electric.
    • Evans was also the President of the Aurora Street Railway.
    • By 1897 the inter-urban line included Aurora, Yorkville and Morris as destinations.
  • 1885 - Senator Henry H. Evans purchased the property to develop it as a center of entertainment, which featured a refreshment hall and dance pavilion and became known as Evans Park.
    • In 1899 he started Riverview Park in Montgomery, located west of the Fox River. It was later known as Fox River Park and eventually closed in 1925.
    • Photocopy of 1908 Advertisement: Evans for Candidate for Republican Nomination for State Senator, 14th District for August 8, 1908 Primaries.
    • Photo of Evans home near the corner of Downer and Broadway in The Aurora Story.
  • 1890 - Phillips Park used for annual 4th of July family celebrations.
    • Area could have been used as early as the 1850’s, when celebrating the 4th of July with family picnics became the new tradition.
    • The Fifth - Spruce Line Street Car serviced the park.
  • 1899 - Property donated through the estate of Auroran Travis Phillips, former grocer, alderman and mayor.
    • He instructed that $24,000 from his estate be used to purchase property for a park and be donated to the city.
    • After Phillip’s death in 1897, a total of 60 acres, at $400 per acre, were purchased from Evans, by the estate administrator Eugene B. Mix and turned over to the city. City population 20,000. (History of Aurora)
    • The actual deed was signed and recorded on November 21, 1899.
    • He served as Third Ward Alderman from 1876-1880 and Mayor in 1881.
    • 1874 - Photocopy of Travis Phillips Photo.
    • In 1854 he started a grocery store that he ran for 26 years at the corner of Downer & River. A photo of his home on Broadway, near the corner of Downer is shown in The Aurora Story.
    • Phillips was born on Sept. 3, 1830. Phillips never married. He is buried in the West Aurora Cemetery.
  • 1899- Known as “City Park”.
    • In July 1902 the City Council voted to change the name to Phillips Park in honor of its donor.
  • 1905 - Park Commissioners appointed. Commissioned by state law.
  • 1907 - City Council accepted bid by J.N. Little & J.R. Hagerman for construction of custodian’s house. Designed by architect Eugene Malmer, the house was completed by 1910.
    • City Letter Re: Bids Advertised for the Construction/Bid Rec. $1,760 on file.
  • 1910 - The Moses family tradition: There was a Moses employed as the Park Superintendent or the equivalent position, from 1910-1984, for a total of 74 years.
    • George from 1910-1926. He died in 1926 at the age of 70 and his funeral was held at his home in the park. He was born in Plymouth, England. Refer to 1926 entry.
    • Ray C. Moses (George’s son) was named Superintendent following George’s death. He was largely responsible for the next fifty years of constant growth and expansion, making Phillips one of the most beautiful parks in the area. In 1978 he was named Director and retired in 1984. Ray died August 30, 1990.
    • In 1978 Ed (Ray’s son) was made Superintendent. He started in 1946 and retired in 1984.
    • In June 2000 Ron (Ray’s son) was appointed as the 3rd Ward Alderman, after Alderman Ken Hinterlong moved out of the ward, which encompasses Phillips Park. In 2001 Ron Moses ran, uncontested for the position. In 2002 he announced he would not run for another term.
  • 1910 - The Greenhouse was built.
    • 1915 - Cactus moved to the greenhouse.
    • 1920's - The greenhouse expansion took place.
    • 1936 - One hundred eighty walnut trees started in greenhouse and were moved to island once they reached 6-8 feet.
    • 1937 - At this time 50,000 plants and 25,000 flowers were grown annually in the greenhouse, in addition to 1,800 trees and 2,000 shrubs.
    • 1939 - Photo of Greenhouse with Ray & Ed Moses from November of that year on file.
    • 1960 - Booklet created by Moses identifying plant life on the island was distributed.
    • 1991 - Greenhouse demolished.
    • 1994 - New 4,000 square foot Greenhouse built for $93,000, replacing an 80-year- old facility.
  • 1910 - Band Concerts through 1920.
    • Photo dated 1910 from The Aurora Story read: Aurora Street Railway streetcar: Band Concert Evans Park Tonight.
  • 1912 - Elk Herd.
  • 1915 - Zoo Established.
    • 1920 - Home to 5 black bears, 10 monkeys, 6 elk, 3 buffalo, 2 foxes, 1 wolf and 1 deer, in addition to hundreds of birds of every description.
    • 1926 - The stonewall along the house that lead to the zoo, was built by Bob Lisle.
    • 1934 - Brookfield Zoo opened and Phillips Park Zoo decided to focus on a collection of native animals, rather than the giraffes and other large exotic animals that were showcased in the past.
    • 1934 - It was referred to as a zoo/museum since the Mastodon Bones were displayed here.
    • 1936 - Buffalo were slain.
    • 1937 - Home to monkeys, a coyote, baboons, rabbits, bears, pigeons, parakeets, parrots and lovebirds.
    • 1938 - Beacon article dated September 11, 1938 titled “Start 200 Men Tomorrow On Park Project”, explained how the WPA improvement project was going to spend the $189,000 allotted for the general improvement projects at Phillips Park by both the government and the city. In a statement issued by Mayor Harry B. Warner, he indicated that approximately $30,000 was to be used to transplant trees and shrubs, rebuild animal cages and add fireplaces.
    • 1950 - The barn and waterwheel were built. (1964 Waterwheel built of cypress.)
    • 1984 - The outdoor Bird Flight was built.
    • 1985 - Beacon article from July 18 has Nancy Weiss indicating there are buffalo at the zoo.
    • 1985 - Judy the Bear was donated by businessman Jeff Crockett.
    • 1985 - Farfel, a Macaw, was donated by the Chicago Lincoln Park Zoo.
    • 1985 - Two new black swans were donated by Ray Moses.
    • 1986 - Newborn Twin African Pygmy Goats named Billy Paul and Billy Joel arrived.
    • 1992 - The pillars were constructed with Black Bear sculptures at Zoo Entrance in April. (Refer to 1992 Entry)
    • 1996 - “Chopper” the caiman was a new addition in April and then stolen in September.
    • 1996 - A new exhibit featuring North American River Otters Teeter and Totter was added.
    • 1999 - Judy the Bear died on June 16.
    • 1999 - Reindeer from Walter Payton’s Roundhouse: Scooter, Simba, Prancer, Comet and Vixen were on display until the following year. Otters were moved to a new exhibit area, and a new fox exhibit was also added.
    • 2000 - The Perimeter Fencing Project, that included gate counters, started in December and was completed in 2001.
    • 2001 - The elk herd was moved to Lagoon area, which use to be the skating pond area.
    • 2001 - The perimeter-fencing project was completed.
    • 2001 - A new gray wolf (timber wolf) habitat was added for “Dakota”, “Cheyenne” and “Aurora”.
    • 2002 - The newest addition, “Kenai” the bald eagle arrived on July 19, 2002. Work had begun earlier in the year to prepare the Bird Flight, which is a 50 x 25 foot open-air shelter that houses a pond and a waterfall, with a backdrop mural of a mountain setting painted by Park employee Chris Mascarella.
    • 2002 - The Elk Viewing Deck was opened to the public in August, providing an open view of the elk enclosure.
    • 2002 - On November 23rd a 9-month old, 240-pound Bengal Tiger “Sierra” was confiscated by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, since she was privately, but illegally, owned. She was temporarily housed at the zoo for approximately one month, until the DNR found a permanent home for her at the Rocky Mountain Wildlife Conservation Center in Keenesburg, Colorado.
  • 1916 - The Birdhouse was built with a glass roof, at an estimated cost of $1,600.
    • It was wrecked by a hailstorm in 1933.
    • 1984 - The outdoor Bird Flight (cage) was built.
    • 1985 - The new Birdhouse opened in May. Refer to 1985 Entry.
    • 1989 - The Birdhouse sign, carved by Kris Risvold, was installed above the west entrance.
    • 1999 - The interior of the Birdhouse was redecorated.
    • 2001 - The Bird Flight was reconstructed.
  • 1918 - Centennial Pageant held in Phillips Park with 5,000 people in attendance.
  • 1918 - Myron Howard West developed and published the “Systems of Parks for Aurora”.
  • 1920’s - Original Golf Course Constructed.
    • The first property expansion added 45 acres for the 9-hole golf course, to the original 60 acres, sometime prior to 1918.
    • 1925 or 1926 - the front/hilly nine holes to the north were developed.
    • 1934 - Improvements made to 9-hole course by the Civilian Conservation Corps, a “New Deal” program to combat unemployment.
    • 1938 - Beacon article dated September 2, 1938 titled “Begin Work on Park Project Next Tuesday” indicated the golf course would close the following Tuesday for complete rebuilding of the municipal links, as part of a $200,000 Works Progress Administration (WPA) project that would employ 200 individuals. Tees, greens, bunkers and traps would be completely redesigned and rebuilt, with the addition of landscaping to make the picture complete. Plans for the project were prepared by City Engineer Harold M. Achim, and Superintendent of Parks Richard E. Dobbins, and would be under the direction of Mayor Harry B. Warner.
    • 1938 - Beacon article dated September 11, 1938 titled “Start 200 Men Tomorrow On Park Project”, explained how the WPA improvement project was going to spend the $189,000 allotted for the project by both the government and the city. It also noted that park employees tore down the old golf course the week prior. In a statement issued by Mayor Harry B. Warner, he indicated that approximately $44,000 would be used to rebuild the golf course which will consist of regrading the greens, enlarging the tees, providing clay tees at each grass tee and rearranging traps with the idea of dividing the fairways to make playing at the park a little safer and planting trees at the back of the tees and in general to beautify the course.
    • After the expansion, the course encompassed 100 acres that included 80 acres of fairway and 20 acres of rough, with a clubhouse.
    • 1994 - Irrigation System purchased for $289,947. The Automated Water System was installed to avoid parched fairways.
    • 1999 - The course was closed in the fall to begin improvements to the back nine.
    • 2001 The course opened to public on Saturday, July 14. The Official Dedication Ceremony was held on Tuesday, July 10 and premier opening event, the Friends of Phillips Park golf outing fundraiser was held on Thursday, July 12. The 18-hole course can now boast modern features like “USGA” Greens, a computerized irrigation system, multiple tees, larger greens, better overall drainage systems, strategically placed bunkers and water hazards, cart paths, a driving range and a new clubhouse, as well as a three hole Junior Course, resulting in a quality championship caliber golf course. The new driving range has both “All Weather Teeing Surface” for inclement weather and a massive grass tee for a more realistic feel. With three sets of tees, the golf course ranges from 4,760 yards to 6,200 yards, providing a wide range of challenge for varying abilities.
  • 1923 - Two WWI Cannons were donated by the U.S. Government in June.
    • Located west of the playground.
    • Mayor Chas. H. Greene & Commissioners noted on plaques.
  • 1926 - Beacon article announced: George F. Moses, 70, who during 15 years as Superintendent of Phillips Park, developed it into one of the most beautiful spots in this section, died at his home at 5:20 o’clock last night. He was ill for several months, but it was only a couple of weeks ago that his condition became serious. Mr. Moses had been a resident of Aurora since 1893. Burial was in Riverside cemetery.
  • 1933 - Lake Excavation. The Civil Works Administration, a federal work project during the Great Depression, began excavating the lake with a work crew of 555 men, who were under the direction of Commissioner Charles A. Townsend and Custodian Ray Moses. The lake was considered as early as 1902.
    • 1933 - Excavation created an island, in addition to the natural one that was already there. Local engineer G. Walter Parker designed the island. Once completed, the island was only accessible by boat for 25 years.
    • Photocopy of Beacon article dated January 21, 1934 indicates that 4 bones were first discovered by CWA workman, Joseph Gari, and included a hip and shoulder bone.
    • 1934 - Prehistoric Mastodon Bones & Tusks that were estimated to be between 10,000 & 22,000 years old were discovered March 7, 1934. A hand-drawn map showing specifically where the bones were found, indicates a skull and scapula were found at the north end of the lake; toward the north on the east end 3 ribs and the 1st and 2nd tusks; on the east end between the two islands the 2nd skull, vertebrae, toes and femur; and at the far south end the 3rd tusk, 3rd skull and lower jaw.
    • 1934 - Mastodon Bones first housed in Greenhouse.
    • 1935 - Beacon article dated January 15, 1935 reports that Aurora College Professor Clarence R. Smith informed the Lions Club members that since last April, 2 more skulls, 2 more tusks, a leg bone, a lower jaw, front leg bone, several ribs, vertebrae and foot bones are among the latest finds. In addition, the thigh bone of a large beaver, estimated to weigh over 500 pounds was found along with 6 wing bones from a large bird which would have stood over four feet in height, 21 different species of shell from the swamp marl, and bones from elk and Virginia deer. Borings in the marl at one point found the swamp to go 304 feet into the ground. Tests showed that two large valleys existed at the site years ago.
    • 1935 - article by Clarence R. Smith was published in Science, dated April 15, 1935. It states that the find included 3 skulls, one of which includes the lower jaw, 3 tusks, a femur, an ulna, a scapula, a number of ribs, several vertebrae and a number of foot bones. E.S. Riggs, paleontologist at Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, identified the species as Mastodon americanus. Three pairs of bird humeri and a portion of breast, all of the same species of bird were found, though the species has not yet identified, are being examined by Professor L.A. Adams, of the University of Illinois. The deposit in which they were found is a bed of gray marl, which borings revealed a maximum thickness of thirty feet that was overlaid by two to five feet of peat, and over this there was two feet of black muck which comprised the bottom of the modern swamp. In addition, the right femur of a giant beaver, Castoroides ohioensis, was found and being examined by Professor Adams.
    • A September 1935 article in the Wilson Bulletin states that Dr. L.A. Adams, professor at the University of Illinois determined the bird to be a Trumpeter Swan (Cygnus buccinator) of late Pleistocene. Previously this swan had been reported from Pleistocene deposits in Oregon and Florida, this present being the first occurrence of it in the central portion of our country. The specimens were returned to Professor Smith and placed in a museum at Phillips Park.
    • 1935 - A Cinder Bridle Path was constructed around the circumference of the lake, prior to summer of that year. The leasee was to provide supplies and materials for the construction of the stable. The stables were then built. The original Resolution and Public Notice are on file.
    • 1935 - Towards completion the project, the number of workmen dropped drastically, when the supervision of the project was transferred to the Illinois Emergency Relief Commission.
    • 1937 - Beacon photo showing the bones. Beacon article dated September 1, 1937 indicated that Professor Clarence Smith of Aurora College, during a presentation to the Rotary Club, urged the city to provide proper housing for the bones discovered at Phillips Park and in surrounding area, or turn them over to the Field Museum in Chicago.
    • 1937 - The official name for the lake was “Townsend Lake” after former Mayor and Park Commissioner, though everyone referred to it as “Mastodon Lake”.
    • 1937 - Mastodon Bones were displayed in Birdhouse.
    • 1938 - Mastodon Bones were moved to Aurora Historical Society’s Tanner House.
    • 1939 - Beacon photo dated July 16, 1939 showed Park Superintendent Ray Moses and Aurora College Professor Clarence R. Smith removing an 8-foot long mastodon tusk, found by WPA worker Louis Sipos, during a sewer project on Watson Street, south of Parker Avenue, which was taken to the greenhouse, with plans to have it presented to the Aurora Historical Society. The article includes a detailed description of the find and of the makeup of the soil content from that time to current.
    • 1954 - The road was constructed around the island.
    • 1957 - The bridge was built.
    • 1960’s - The island was used for weddings.
    • 1960’s - The west extension of the lake was dug.
    • 1960’s - Washrooms were built on island with the stones taken from the demolition of Center School.
    • 1960 - Paleontologist’s report on Mastodon Lake stated there were no additional findings.
    • 1988 - A 1-mile walking/biking trail was constructed around the lake.
    • 1991 - The pedestrian bridge to the island was constructed. (Mfg. Correspondence)
    • 1996 - The Mastodon Bones were moved to an exhibit at the Aurora Historical Museum in the Art & History Center at 20 East Downer Place.
    • 1999 - Construction began in the fall on the Mastodon Island Project that entailed two separate sites, each adjacent to the lake. Completed in May of 2000, the island site showcases a life-size mastodon sculpture, mastodon footprints, a tusk maze and a mastodon slide. The new gazebo, complete with tiered seating, will be utilized for educational programs in conjunction with the interactive displays. The other site located southwest of the lake, known as Mastodon Lake Recreation Area West, features a playground, a pavilion, sand volleyball courts and horseshoe pits. In addition, three new fishing piers were located around the lake.
  • 1935 - The water tower was constructed on Hill Avenue.
  • 1936 - Sunken Garden Construction project began by the Works Project Administration (WPA).
    • 1937 - A Rose Garden existed.
    • Ray Moses laid out the design of garden. His father was a formally trained gardener at English estates.
    • Beacon article dated September 11, 1938 titled “Start 200 Men Tomorrow On Park Project”, explained how the WPA improvement project at Phillips Park was going to spend the $189,000 allotted for the project by both the government and the city. In a statement issued by Mayor Harry B. Warner, he indicated that approximately $11,000 would be used to construct a formal flower garden.
    • A photo from near the end of construction, dated November 11th, 1939, is on file.
    • Beacon article dated November 12, 1939 noted that Ray Moses, the head of the Aurora Park Department named a new variety of chrysanthemum “Pearl Warner”, after Mayor Harry B. Warner’s wife. It was a deep yellow in color, although the parent plant was a pale pink.
    • Beacon article dated November 14, 1939 noted 5,000 chrysanthemums, of 157 varieties, were on display for Aurora’s Chrysanthemum show that would run through November 26th. Under the direction of Ray Moses, 50 youth employed by the National Youth Administration aided in the preparations for several months, including remodeling of the old building (birdhouse) used for the flower show. Beacon photo dated November 19, 1939 shows Ray Moses and National Youth Administration worker Elizabeth King at the “mum” show.
    • On the back of a photo marked 1940’s, there is a handwritten note describing the Army/Navy carpet bed design (1942), noting it is where the tennis courts were located.
    • Beacon article dated May 11, 1941 stated the lights were installed at garden and turned on.
    • Beacon article dated May 11, 1941 noted that 12,000 tulips, of 25 different varieties, were in full bloom at Sunken Garden.
    • Beacon article dated April 14, 1942 indicated that the City Council approved the distribution of more than 20,000 tomato and cabbage plants, at no charge, to those who could not afford them, through the schools, at the urging of Ray Moses, Park Custodian.
    • Beacon article dated July 16, 1942 has Ray Moses, foreman of parks, inviting the inspection by the local citizenry of the formal gardens at Phillips Park and the gardens at Garfield Park. Both have military themes, with gardens at Garfield possessing a beautiful flag, as well as another plot with military symbols.
    • Beacon article dated September 2, 1942 noted the Sunken Garden (with lily pond) was illuminated nightly by floodlights to showcase the Army-Navy design with anchors and guns.
    • 1946 - Ken Olsen of the Aurora American Legion Band informed staff that they used to perform in the garden and in 1946 electric was installed there.
    • Site of yearly displays of flower carpet beds, many times designed to commemorate special events. Designs on file: Buy War Bonds (1940’s) slides on file, Boy Scouts 1910-1960, Navy Waves 1942-1967, Victory: Army - Navy (1942), Aurora 150 Years (1987) created by Wally Mundy of Mundy Landscaping.
    • The flame was turned off in the 70’s due to the energy crisis.
    • 1986 - The pond was filled in, according to park staff. The dimensions were estimated to be 20 by 30 feet and 3 feet deep.
    • 1986 - The Friends of Phillips Park (FOPP) Garden & Planting Committee formed plans for redevelopment of Sunken Garden. A FOPP brochure indicates they spent $650 to purchase 5,000 tulip bulbs, which volunteers planted the prior fall.
    • 1993 - Veterans were invited to attend a Rededication Ceremony, where the name plaques had been replaced on the WWII Monument honoring the “Aurora Township Heroes 1941-1945” that had earlier been stolen.
    • 1994 - A Remembrance Program was held at Sunken Garden on June 6, 1994 in recognition of the 50th Anniversary of D-Day.
    • 2000 - Millennium bed reading “2000” was planted by Mundy Design and funded by FOPP.
    • 2002 - The Official Dedication Ceremony and Opening of the Sunken Garden at Phillips Park was held on Tuesday, June 25th at 4:00 p.m. The renovation project, which began that past February, included a handicap accessible multi-level walkway system, irrigation, benches, urns, and plantings consisting of annuals, ornamental grasses, shrubs and topiaries. The addition of a three-tiered fountain, complete with lights, was the center focal point of the garden. The addition of the “Four Seasons” statues, donated by Wally Mundy of W.E. Mundy Landscaping & Garden Center and Mike Schoppe of Schoppe Design Associates, was another new feature. The statues each represent one of the four seasons and are situated in the corners of the garden. An entry gate was also added, allowing patrons access from the garden to the zoo. The new Hostas Garden lines the common area, with plants donated by individuals and organizations from throughout the community. The former Superintendent Edwin Moses was recognized by Mayor Stover, with a bronze plaque, located in the garden, that was unveiled during the 2002 opening ceremony, noting Ed’s years of dedication to the garden.
    • Mundy Landscaping was awarded the Grand Award for Exterior Commercial Renovation, sponsored by the Associated Landscape Contractors of America.
    • 2002 - In preparation for the next spring, 12,000 tulip bulbs were planted.
  • 1937 - Phillips Park consisted of 200 acres.
  • 1938 - Beacon article dated September 2, 1938 noted that the Junior Drum Corps would give exhibitions at Phillips Park following the ballgames on Sunday and Monday, during Labor Day weekend.
  • 1938 - Beacon article dated September 2, 1938 titled “Begin Work on Park Project Next Tuesday” indicated the golf course would close the following Tuesday for complete rebuilding of the municipal links, as part of a $200,000 Works Progress Administration (WPA) project that would employ 200 individuals. Tees, greens, bunkers and traps would be completely redesigned and rebuilt, with the addition of landscaping to make the picture complete. Plans for the project were prepared by City Engineer Harold M. Achim, and Superintendent of Parks Richard E. Dobbins, and would be under the direction of Mayor Harry B. Warner. Other park improvements included a large parking lot with lights that would accommodate several hundred automobiles, on the site of the old buffalo pens, west of the ball diamond and near the red brick barn and tool house. New tennis courts, horse shoe courts and other recreational facilities will be constructed, water and sewer mains will be laid and trees and shrubs will be planted. The project will also take care of numerous improvements to Garfield Park and will employ 200 men over the period of one year.
  • 1938 - Beacon article dated September 11, 1938 titled “Start 200 Men Tomorrow On Park Project”, explained how the WPA improvement project was going to spend the $189,000 allotted for the project by both the government and the city. It also noted that park employees tore down the old golf course the week prior. In a statement issued by Mayor Harry B. Warner, he indicated that approximately $6,935 would go to improve the tennis courts at Garfield; $15,000 to construct a parking lot at Phillips; $11,500 to run city water into Phillips, resulting in a decrease in maintenance of $1,500 annually; $28,000 to build 12 tennis courts at Phillips; $1,300 to remodel present barn at new tennis court site and use as tennis club house in summer and skating club house in winter; $7,500 to resurface park drives; $11,000 to construct a formal flower garden; $14,000 to install sewers and miscellaneous items such as the demolition of the pavilion, that is to be replaced with a new one next spring, and funded through another project; $30,000 to transplant trees and shrubs, rebuild animal cages and add fireplaces; and $44,000 to rebuild the golf course that will consist of regarding the greens, enlarging the tees, providing clay tees at each grass tee and rearranging traps with the idea of dividing the fairways to make playing at the park a little safer and planting trees at the back of the tees and in general to beautify the course.
  • 1939 - Construction projects were to have been completed on the twelve tennis courts, horseshoe courts, a formal garden, fireplaces and the parking lot across from the garden. The one-year WPA Project that started on September 12, 1938 and employed 200 workers, according to Beacon article dated September 11, 1938. In addition, City water was to be run to park, sewers added, zoo cages rebuilt, the carpenter’s shop remodeled, the pavilion demolished and the golf course to be rebuilt. In a separate project, a new pavilion was to be built prior to spring 1939.
  • 1947 - The Old Timers Baseball Association Monument recognized those who served the defense of our country.
    • 2003 - Monument to be located at the new Hunt Field located at Howell Place & Parker Ave.
  • 1950’s - Smith Boulevard was developed.
    • A Beacon article from 1920 noted that the main entrance to Phillips Park is from Parker or use the Park boulevard entrance, an extension of Smith Street or the other entrance from Ohio Street.
    • A Beacon article from 1937 indicated a motor driveway from Smith Blvd. to Parker Avenue.
  • 1955 - The Phillips Park Pool and Lincoln Park Pool were constructed.
    • It was first planned in 1918 and again in 1937, though it was not constructed until 1956.
    • The spray pool started as an attraction in the 1930’s.
    • The pool was dedicated in 1956.
    • 1987 - The old pool was still open. Due to leaks it took 500,000 gallons to fill 300,000-gallon capacity.
    • 1988 - The pool closed.
    • 1988 - The city and the Fox Valley Park District hire a consultant for $12,000.
    • Spray Pool re-opened from 1988-1990.
    • Construction began on the Phillips Park Family Aquatic Center in 1991.
  • 1957 - The United States Marine Corps Commemorative Plaque was dedicated by Mayor Paul Egan.
  • 1957 - The Truemper Monument.
    • The monument was moved from McCarty Park to its current location at the Sunken Garden, sometime prior to 1969. Likely, it was in 1957. The story is that it had to be moved because Walter’s mother had to pass it daily, when located at McCarty Park and was made very upset by the sight of it.
    • Walter E. Truemper served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during WWII. He received the Medal of Honor for Valor, posthumously, on May 15, 1944. It was awarded for his willingness to offer his life in a futile attempt to save the life of a fellow airman and friend.
    • He was the only Auroran to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor for Valor.
    • The Monument was dedicated on January 2, 1956.
    • Walter E. Truemper was born October 31, 1918 and died February 20, 1944.
    • The 50th Anniversary was recognized in 1994.
  • 1957 - The Miniature Burlington Train was added as a new attraction at Phillips Park.
  • 1958 - A tablet, located behind cannons, commemorating Comrade Daniel Wedge, the last Civil War Veteran of Aurora was installed.
  • 1959 - The Waterfall was dedicated on May 30, 1959, following the afternoon Dedication Day Parade with 5,000 in attendance, to hear Col. Charles H. Edwards speak. There was also a Memorial Day Parade in the morning.
    • The Dedication Plaque reads: “In honor of men and women of Aurora who devotedly served their country in time of war.” For WWII.
    • Later articles noted that Mayor Egan stated his displeasure with the project and the event itself, during the ceremony, to which he received boos from the crowd.
    • The original invitation to Mayor Egan from Park Commissioner Wyeth is on file.
    • City Commissioners in attendance included William G. Konrad, W.B. Robertson, Leo E. Boucon and H.A. “Ace” Wyeth, Sr.
    • waterfall on file.
  • 1959 - F-80 Jet Fighter Bomber “Shooting Star” placed in Phillips Park.
    • Built in 1945, the F-80 was used at the end of WWII. This was one of 4 remaining F-80’s.
    • Arrived in 1959 according to Ron Moses because the White Sox played in the World Series.
    • It was later moved to Georgia’s Museum of Aviation at the Robbins Air Force Base 1984 or 1988.
  • 1984 - Vietnam F-105 Thunderchief Fighter-Bomber “Whistling Death” installed at park on July 18.
    • Built in 1953.
    • Beacon article in 1995 announced the Thud Jet was to be moved.
    • It was later moved to the Aurora Municipal Airport’s Air Classics Museum of Aviation.
  • 1985 - Friends of Phillips Park Advisory Committee established.
    • In 1982 the City Council established and appointed a 9-member Advisory Committee.
    • In 1991 the FOPP received the Image-Maker Award from the Greater Aurora Chamber of Commerce.
  • 1985 - The New Birdhouse opened in May.
    • 1984 - The outdoor Bird Flight (cage) was built.
    • Farfel the Macaw was stolen in ’86 and ’87.
    • The Birdhouse sign, carved by Kris Risvold, was placed above the west entrance.
    • 1999 - Dillon the Parrot was donated.
    • 1999 - The interior of the Birdhouse was redecorated.
    • 2001 - The Bird Flight was reconstructed.
    • 2002 - “Kenai” the bald eagle arrived in July.
  • 1988 - The Mastodon Lake 1 Mile Trail was constructed as a Pedestrian and Bicycle Pathway.
    • The Dedication Ceremony was held on Sunday, September 11, 1991.
  • 1991 - WWII Armory on Howell Place was demolished.
    • It was used as a Naval Building and an Army Reserve.
    • It was built approximately 50 years prior.
  • 1991 - The Phillips Park Family Aquatic Center was constructed.
    • The project was completed for 4.4 million.
    • The project included a tube slide, a body slide and 2 drop-off slides, a children’s play pool with a waterfall and water cannons, plus a tot slide. There is also a hot tub, a sand play area, a sand volleyball court and concessions. The capacity is for 1,500 people, though the facility had averaged 3,200 per day and had experienced as many as 4,500 by 1994.
  • 1992 - The zoo entrance pillars with Black Bear sculptures were constructed in April. Sculptor Steve Weitzman was commission by the Aurora Public Art Commission to design the entrance pillars, which are decorated with American Black Bears on top, and six bas-relief animal sculptures on the sides, at a cost of $12,000. On each pillar there were three insets designed, one of a four-horned sheep, one of a fox and the other a swan, each on a different side of the pillar. Stop signs were placed on empty side of each pillar. The original side sculptures rusted due to metal flakes used, so Weitzman replaced them with a second set that were used in the new pillars, built in September 2001. The molds are property of the artist.
    • 1992 - The Aurora Public Art Commission held a Dedication Ceremony on June 28.
    • 1992 - The Zoo Wall, built by staff member Nick Beyer, was installed in the fall. It included new signage, consisting of stone letters that read Phillips Park. The stone letters cost $1,200.
    • 2001 - The bronze plaques were installed on entrance pillars noting zoo was established in 1915.
  • 1993 - Veterans were invited to attend a Rededication Ceremony, where the name plaques had been replaced on the WWII Monument honoring the “Aurora Township Heroes 1941-1945” that had earlier been stolen.
  • 1994 - The new 4,000 square foot Greenhouse was built for $93,000, replacing an 80-year old facility.
    • 40,000 plants were grown annually.
    • Prior to 1994, a greenhouse supplier developed a fuchsia geranium and named it “Aurora”, It was strictly coincidence and not named for our city.
    • “Aurora” geraniums had been used for annual plantings up through 1998.
  • 1995 - Total Acreage for all City Parks was 402 acres, with Phillips Park at 250 acres.
  • 1996 - The 1995 Master Plan was adopted by City Council. The plan, designed by Burke & Associates, included changes to three areas: the Central oak/hickory forest; the golf course; and Mastodon Lake. Highlights of the plan follow:
    • Oak/Hickory Forest:
      • New Playground (1997)
      • Zoo Parking Major Zoo Expansion to northwest/southeast
    • Golf Course:
      • New Clubhouse
      • Driving Range
      • Miniature Golf Course
      • General Improvements
    • Mastodon Lake:
      • Several Fishing Piers
      • Paddle Boat Pier
      • Area for Model Boat Sailing
      • Prairie Design Landscape on Islands>
      • Native Prairie Habitat
      • Wetland Area
      • New Concert Pavilion
  • 1997- The Playground Renovation was completed.
  • 1999 - The Friends of Phillips Park donated the “Welcome to Phillips Park” entry sign across at the Parker Avenue/Moses Drive entrance. 1999 The Friends of Phillips Park and the city began the one-year line-up of programs, activities and events to commemorate the park’s Centennial.
  • 1999 - Improvements to back nine began in the fall for the total golf course renovation. Park acreage was more than 280 acres. The Groundbreaking Ceremony was held September 7, 1999.
  • 1999 - Construction began in the fall on the Mastodon Island Project that entailed two separate sites, each adjacent to the lake. Completed in May of 2000, the island site showcases a life-size mastodon sculpture, mastodon footprints, a tusk maze and a mastodon slide. The new gazebo, complete with tiered seating, will be utilized for educational programs in conjunction with the interactive displays. The other site located southwest of the lake, known as Mastodon Lake Recreation Area West, features a playground, a pavilion, sand volleyball courts and horseshoe pits. In addition, three new fishing piers were located around the lake.
  • 2001 - After closing in the fall of ’99 for reconstruction, the Phillips Park Golf Course re-opened on July 14, 2001. The 18-hole course, designed by Greg Martin, now boasts modern features like “USGA” Greens, a computerized irrigation system, multiple tees, larger greens, better overall drainage systems, strategically placed bunkers and water hazards, cart paths, a driving range and a new clubhouse, as well as a three hole Junior Course, resulting in a quality championship caliber golf course. The new driving range has both “All Weather Teeing Surface” for inclement weather and a massive grass tee for a more realistic feel. With three sets of tees, the golf course ranges from 4,760 yards to 6,200 yards, providing a wide range of challenge for varying abilities.
  • 2001 - The perimeter-fencing project was completed at the Phillips Park Zoo.
  • 2001 - A new gray wolf (timber wolf) habitat was added for “Dakota”, “Cheyenne” and “Aurora”.
  • 2002 - A new sledding hill and ice skating rink opened in January at the Winter Recreation Area site, located adjacent to the Aquatic Center. The Aurora Kiwanis Club had taken a special interest in the project by volunteering to plant shrubs, line the pedestrian paths, assemble decorative sponsorship benches, and contribute the necessary funds. In 2002 a bunny hill was added.
  • 2002 - Fountains, donated by the Friends of Phillips Park, were added to Mastodon Lake in 2002, resulting in a more calming atmosphere, while keeping the lake clean. The year prior, the shoreline was cleared of dense shrubbery that opened up the lake view.
  • 2002 - The main level build-out of the Administration Building was completed and the Old Pro Shop was renovated for use by The First Tee - junior golf program.
  • 2002 - A special security detail was initiated in May of 2002 to protect the city’s large investment of property at the park, and security cameras were installed to ward off vandalism. Routine patrols on foot, bicycle and by vehicle are used to issue tickets for nuisance behavior, such as reckless driving and alcohol consumption. New park hours were established and security gates were installed the year prior, as additional security measures.
  • 2002 - The Official Dedication Ceremony for the Re-Opening of the Sunken Garden was held on Tuesday, June 25 at 4:00 p.m. The renovation project, which began in February of that year, included a handicap accessible multi-level walkway system, irrigation, benches, urns, and plantings to consist of annuals, ornamental grasses, shrubs and topiaries. The addition of a three-tiered fountain, complete with lights, is the center focal point of the garden. The addition of the “Four Seasons” statues, donated by Wally Mundy of W.E. Mundy Landscaping & Garden Center and Mike Schoppe of Schoppe Design Associates, was another new feature. The statues each represent one of the four seasons and are situated in the corners of the garden. An entry gate was also added, allowing patrons access from the garden to the zoo. The new Hostas Garden lines the common area, with plants donated by individuals and organizations from throughout the community, which were planted by the Friends of Phillips Park. Cameras were added for security.
  • 2002 - The newest addition, “Kenai” the bald eagle, arrived on July 19, 2002. She was obtained through the Bird Treatment and Learning Center, in Anchorage, Alaska. “Kenai” was brought to the rehab center, after having been found in Homer, Alaska unable to fly. She was estimated to be about 6 to 8 years old. It was determined that “Kenai” was not releasable back to the wild, due to a broken wing. Work had begun earlier in the year to prepare the Bird Flight for her arrival. It is housed in a 50 x 25 foot open-air shelter that houses a pond and a waterfall, with a backdrop mural of a mountain setting, painted by Park Maintenance Worker Chris Mascarella.
  • 2002 - The Elk Viewing Deck was opened to the public in August, providing an open view of the elk enclosure.
  • 2002 - Construction began in the fall on two new girl’s softball fields located at Howell Place & Parker Avenue. It will be the future site of Hunt Field, the “Old Timers” Baseball Memorial, home field to the East Aurora High School Lady Tomcats and the Women’s Softball Assoc. It was a cooperative project between the City of Aurora’s Department of Parks and Recreation and the East Aurora School District #131. Hunt Field was named in honor of Dick Hunt, who started Pony League baseball here.
  • 2002 - The electrical upgrade project began.
  • 2002 - On November 23, 2002 a 9-month old, 240-pound Bengal Tiger “Sierra” was confiscated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, since she was privately, but illegally, owned. She was temporarily housed at the zoo for approximately one month, until the DNR found a permanent home for her at the Rocky Mountain Wildlife Conservation Center in Keenesburg, Colorado.
  • 2002 - Friends of Phillips Park donated an all-weather pavilion for the Winter Recreation Area.
  • 2003 - Second Bald Eagle “Denali” arrived.
  • 2003 - Visitors Center and Mastodon Gallery opened on Tuesday, October 28, 2003. The guest count reached 53,880 in the first full year of operation, with more than 1,065 hours donated by the Volunteer Ambassadors. Facility serves as meeting facility for Southeast Neighbors Association, the Third Ward Committee, the Friends of Phillips Park and the Phillips Park Zoociety. In addition, local service clubs, organizations and church groups utilize facility for park luncheon tours.
  • 2003 - Two new women’s softball fields were completed at the corner of Howell Place and Ray Moses Drive.
  • 2003 - Friends of Phillips Park donated a snow-making machine for the Winter Recreation Area.
  • 2004 - The new “Mastodon Express” tram begins operating in June and provides free narrated park tours to 7,621 park patrons.
  • 2004 - Scientific Mastodon Dig: Waubonsee Community College, the Illinois State Museum and the City of Aurora mobilized resources to search for additional Mastodon remains. More than 275 volunteers participated in the 11-week excavation at Mastodon Lake from May to August. An abundant amount of material was found that would contribute to proving the scientific significance of the bones unearthed in 1934 and contribute to the understanding of the late Pleistocene geology, climate and paleoecology of northeastern Illinois. The material included plant macrofossils, mollusks, and bones of fish, amphibians, reptiles and mammals.
  • 2004 - Record attendance numbers:
    • Visitors to the Zoo tops 182,000 (Including guided tours to over 3,000 students).
    • The Visitors Center and Mastodon Gallery serves over 55,196 guests.
    • The Annual Fall Festival attracts over 12,000 attendees.
    • Free narrated park tours on the Mastodon Express provided to 7,621 park patrons.
    • Santa Station attracts over 2,500 guests at Visitors Center.