History

The Forgotten History of the Abandoned Coxville Zoo

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In a state the size of Texas, it’s no surprise abandoned cities, buildings, and sites are all around. From the abandoned tin mines in El Paso to the now vacant airfields in Corpus Christi, to the ghost town of Center Point in east Texas, there’s no shortage of places to visit if you enjoy exploring these types of locations. But did you know there’s a unique abandoned destination right here in the Hill Country? Located on North Lamar Boulevard  in Austin, (what used to be called the “Dallas Highway”), the remnants of the Coxville Zoo are a must-see for thrill seekers and historians alike.

“… Just Look What One Monkey Started!”

Black and white photo of Coxville's first monkey, Junior, pouring water for a puppy.

Photo: tripod.com/Photos from the Coxville Zoo, 1942-1975

In 1936, Mr. and Mrs. Alvin W. Cox (along with Mr. and Mrs. M.J. Cox) purchased 55 acres of land about four miles north of Austin city limits, where they built a fueling station and convenience store. Not soon after, Alvin bought a pet monkey as a family pet, and the proverbial stage was set. “Junior” was such a hit at the gas station, soon customers were stopping by not for an oil change or loaf of bread, but to play and interact with the friendly primate. Seeing the impact Junior had on children and adults, Alvin began to acquire more animals, and in 1939, Coxville Zoo was established. He acquired some of the animals from soldiers who returned from overseas with exotic pets their wives refused to house. He obtained others from various businessmen who simply wanted a safe haven for exotic animals they had acquired. Alvin’s wife was quoted in a 1984 American Statesman article: “I know he always liked animals. But just look what one monkey started!”

“Twelve monkeys in the bathroom when my electric cage heater went off last winter almost lost me my wife!”

Schoolgirl Jeanie Beal's hand drawn map of the Coxville Zoo in Austin, Texas circa 1952
Photo: tripod.com/Schoolgirl’s Essay on the Coxville Zoo

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