Citizen complaint of the day: Somebody is stripping the Franklin Park bear cages

Remains of the bear cages in Franklin Park.

A concerned citizen reports somebody's been busy destroying one of our city's most important cultural ruins: The old bear cages off Seaver Street in Franklin Park:

Bear cages in Franklin Park are being vandalized. Cages are being stolen for scrap. Park Ranger I spoke to said they couldn't do anything about it. This is a city landmark and historic structure and needs to be protected!!! Please help!

Back in the day, when the Franklin Park Zoo was larger than it is now, it used to have bears - even of the polar variety, in enclosures that date to 1912 and which include a large relief of bears clawing at the Boston city seal, as shown in this 1922 photo by Leslie Brown:

When Franklin Park had bears

The enclosures were eventually shut down - and allowed to just slowly decay over the past four or five decades.

Last year, Matthew Nash pondered the meanings of the ruins:

It’s possible that I’m the only one who is thinking about them at all. I’ve seen park workers having lunch near them, so I know they are not forgotten, but neither are they cared for… or cared about. I guess that’s why I keep going back to sit with my lunch and stare at rusting metal — because I care about them. Even more than that, I appreciate their ignored state, their forlorn rusting uselessness… because they feel genuine to me in that state. Restored they would become new again, separated from their past. Destroyed, they would be lost. Ignored they can exist, tell their story and keep their tiny portion of history alive. That, to me, is why I will continue to eat my lunch under their deadly, beautiful spikes.

Here's a video of some semi-crazed guy exploring the ruins - and leaving the impression that Franklin Park Zoo no longer even exists:

Leslie Jones photo posted under this Creative Commons license.

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Comments

sad

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I wish the state would do something about these 'metal collectors' and the centers that allow this crap to be dropped off and sold for pennies on the dollar. Maybe have the centers start to report what they are taking in (even if its just reporting weight). Maybe that'll stop folks.. or start forcing inspections on what's being taken. More and more valuable stuff is being stolen and then sold as scrap (A/C's, manhole covers, fences... anything that isn't nailed down)

Enough is a enough.. a building near me was gutted by a fire a few years ago and now is finally getting re-done as condos. The construction folks have replaced the gutters THREE times (yes THREE) with aluminum gutters, and each time they get stolen, most likely for scrap (like the ones on our house were before we moved in). Finally they just put plastic ones in so they weren't as appealing anymore.

Also a friend of mine who is an electrician, often goes to the IBEW hall to get jobs (which are often ones most don't want to work, but pay very well). Anyhow he was in New Bedford working on renovating three triple deckers. He was told to secure the building every night and leave NOTHING behind because it would be gone in the morning. Sure enough, after they had completely wired the building (before drywall went up), someone went in overnight (broke in) and ripped out ALL the boxes and copper wiring.

Sad state we live in where people feel the need to do this just to make ends meet (or to just make a buck)

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I feel the same way.

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I love the Bear Cages. Sometimes I can hardly believe that a spot like that is so quiet, so neglected instead of either spiffed up or demolished. I love it in its current melancholy, mysterious state but I'd hate to see it get pillaged by scrap vandals. I wish there were a way to keep it as is without leaving it so exposed.

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Most likely it's not worth

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Most likely it's not worth enough for the city to justify the cost of paying someone to actually recover the scrap. Looks like cast iron scrap is only worth around $9.50 per 100 pounds so while it might be worth it for someone that is working for free and looking to make a quick buck, for the city it would cost more to pay the workers than they would get back out of it.

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Odd calculus

The worth of the cast iron isn't solely a function of its scrap metal value, but also the cost of replacing it should the need arise. IIRC, the lunkheads who nicked the Longfellow wrought iron got a few tens of kilobucks for the metal, and replacement by the state will cost north of a few million dollars. Which is the correct price?

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Franklin Park bear cages

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The Franklin Park Coalition (FPC) would love to see the old bear cages restored as a landscape feature of the park that could be used for arts events, a cafe, or just a picnic ground. The old stonework is gorgeous. We worry about the old bars and metal, they're not very safe and pieces could fall and hurt someone.

With FPC volunteers and our summer youth crew of teens we clear the brush and invasives twice a year, rake in the fall, and pick up litter all year round. They're not as "abandoned" as one would think. They used to be a site for nefarious activity and now are a peaceful spot for dog walkers, park users, or people to make a goofy film.

When bars or metal are loose, volunteers remove it and the Parks Dept picks it up. So it may not be random robbers taking the metal for scrap.

To learn more go to www.franklinparkcoalition.org - places in the park - bear dens

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soooo... the park department

soooo... the park department is removing the cages instead of fixing them? I don't like this. Sure, they shouldn't fall on people, but Why aren't they replaced? What are they doing with them once they come down?

Not Entirely Forgotten

The Franklin Park Coalition, a community organization that advocates for and works to improve the 350+ acre park, frequently works in the area of the Bear Cages to clean up litter, rake leaves in the fall, and remove invasive species from the surrounding woods. They frequently host volunteer cleanup days- should anyone here want to lend a hand. I also understand that there are sometimes concerts or other performances put on on the landing by the cages, in addition to the other plays, concerts, and festivals the FPC puts on in the park. I'm not sure much can be done with preserving the rusting metal cages - they're pretty far gone - but the area is not entirely forgotten. I live close by and it's my favorite area of the park.

As far as scrapping goes, I would imagine that a set of old metal bars would be pretty indiscernible to a scrap yard from all half-rusted iron fences we have around Boston. We're not talking about city manhole covers or pieces of the Longfellow bridge here, so I'm not sure we can blame the scrap yard owners for this one.

More about the FPC- http://www.franklinparkcoalition.org/about-fpc/our-mission/
And more about the history of the Bear Cages from one of the FPC's members- http://olmstedbooks.blogspot.com/2008/03/historic-american-buildings-sur...

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Thanks

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The FPC is a great group. Thanks for your work. I run in Franklin Park (weather permitting so not today, brrr) a few times a week and always detour up the steps to the cages. Over the summer, some of the trees near the bear cages were vandalized-- very odd, the bark was pulled off to form three foot high crosses. The city was notified. I hope some action is taken to protect that area-- even a light at night might help.

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Agreed

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And can I add--the melancholy atmosphere is due to the sense of times past and some sadness about the thought of animals behind bars (though in the photos I've seen of the bears they look happy and healthy with their water pools). The park always feels safe and clean to me, not neglected or dangerous.

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I think I know the culprits

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This must be the work of a South Boston local, George W Bush or both working together.

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Franklin Park bear cages

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The Franklin Park Coalition knows where the old bars and scap metal have gone - and it's not being pilfered! Large pieces fall or come loose, they are heavy, rusted, sharp-edged and not safe. FPC volunteers and youth crew members have hauled pieces away from the bear cages for the Parks Dept. to pick up. I don't know what happens to them after that.

The bear cages used to be a spot for nefarious activity, but you'll notice in the video that there's not much litter anywhere. At least once every season the leaves are raked, the beautiful staircase is weeded, litter is picked up, and invasives are cleared. Huge thanks to the hundreds of people who help keep Franklin Park safe and clean.

Check out the FPC website for more history and photos about this abandoned zoo exhibit: www.franklinparkcoalition.org - places in the park - bear cages

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Bear Cages

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Franklin Park Coaltion is the contact people you should try and get in contact with. There number is 617-908-4002 the contact person is Christine