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Vilas Park Zoo

Scene at Vilas Park Zoo (1915 ca.)

Wisconsin Historical Society Image ID: WHi-74041

Michael J. Quann Park

Quann Park in Madison honors Michael J. Quann (1885 – 1962), who was superintendent of Madison's parks for twenty-three years. He was hired in 1907 by the Madison Park and Pleasure Drive Association to work in the forestry department because he "knew trees.” Quann was, according to James G. Marshall, an "environmentalist" and "ecologist" long before the terms came into popular use. He was a friend of John Olin and Ernest Warner, both prominent in the development of Madison's parks. In 1913 he became executive foreman of the park and pleasure drives, from 1918 to 1941 he was superintendent of Madison parks, and from 1941 to 1955 he was a supervisor in the parks department. He was responsible for landscaping and for establishing flower gardens, picnic areas, baseball and tennis areas, and ice rinks. He planted many of the large trees now growing in Vilas Park, and created its beach.

In 1912 he became involved in the development of the Henry Vilas Zoo. In 1913 he built the bear dens, using teams of horses to move huge stones and rocks and tons of earth. In 1915 he built the bird house and in 1917 the lion house. He figured out a way to recycle water from the Annie C. Stewart memorial fountain on the hill behind the bear dens for the animals in the zoo below.

In 1980 Quann Park, between Franklin Field and the Alliant Energy Center, was dedicated to his memory.

His first wife, Julia, was a milliner and hat designer. She was one of the first women to drive in the days when a car had to be started with a crank in the front of the engine. She and her daughters wore knickers to camp at a time when women in pants were frowned upon. His second wife, Edith, a native of Stoughton, was the daughter of pioneer settlers.

Mark Gajewski