The Architecture of Lincoln Park Zoo



Come for the animals, stay for the architecture. Lincoln Park Zoo is one of Chicago’s best places. It is an award winning zoo in the heart of one of the city’s most beautiful parks, it is free and open year-round, and it features a handful a carefully crafted, early 20th century buildings.

The Zoo’s centerpiece, both in design and location, is the Lion House. If the Guastavino Vaulted ceiling isn’t enough to catch your eye (okay, architectural historian here, but I love a Guastavino vault), lions are depicted in the brickwork on either side of the arched entry. No detail was spared for the kings of the animal kingdom. The building was designed by Chicago architect Dwight D. Perkins in 1912 and is a seamless blend of the Prairie and Classical Revival styles. Zoo inspired details don’t stop at the Lion House. The neighboring buildings feature monkeys (the Primate House) and sea creatures (now the Park Place Cafe). The latter even includes fish scale shapes on the windows.

At the southern end of the Zoo you will find the stately Cafe Brauer, designed by Perkins in 1908. Cafe Brauer is an expansive, Prairie style building with covered porches on the second floor of its two wings (they are enclosed at this time of year but you can catch a glimpse of them in good weather here).

On the next beautiful day, head to the Zoo and get a dose of architecture with your animals. You can get a meal at Cafe Brauer after (my favorite place to eat is the cafe on the rear patio next to the lagoon). Or, brave the cold and enjoy the zoo with minimal other visitors!





Sources and Further Reading:

Intrigued by Chicago’s museum architecture? Check out:

Chicago Landmarks: the Lion House or here on the LP Zoo page

This link on Guastavino vaults has some great photographs

More about Cafe Brauer can be found at WBEZ and the Chicago Park District,

If you’re making a visit, a map of the Zoo is available here.


  1. Kovler Lion House
  2. Park Place Cafe
  3. Kovler Lion House
  4. Park Place Cafe
  5. Park Place Cafe
  6. Helen Brach Primate House
  7. through 9. Cafe Brauer






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