Frank Buck was a household name on Long Island from the 1920s through the 1940s. He was a renowned animal hunter and collector of exotic animals for circuses. He also starred in a few movies. At the World’s Fair in Chicago, he set up an exhibit of the animals he had collected in his travels. When the fair closed, he moved the entire camp to Long Island.
Frank Buck’s Jungle Camp was forty acres and housed lions, elephants, tigers, monkeys, reptiles, and other wild animals. Many of the animals came from the collection of Charles W. Beall. One of the main attraction was Monkey Mountain, a seventy-five foot tall exhibit at the center of the property.
The Camp contained multiple buildings on the property including a three-story Tudor Style building--the Frank Buck Hotel--as well as other restaurants and stores. Above all, Buck’s Jungle Camp housed hundreds of exotic animals including lions, tigers, elephants, monkeys, and reptiles, among others. The Camp’s animals became an important feature of the community and live animals like elephants were brought to galas and society events in nearby towns to help boost publicity and ticket sales. In addition to functioning as a zoo and amusement center, the Camp served as a holding center for exotic animals coming into New York from Buck’s expeditions before being sent to other zoos and circuses. The Camp was a hit with the press and often was written about in newspapers such as the New York Times, which discussed all different types of topics, such as new arrivals and animal births in the compound.
In 1943, the camp was not able to sustain itself anymore and the animals were shipped to public and private zoos across the country. In the 1950s, the Grimaldi family bought the remaining property and renamed it Sunrise Kiddie Land and Animal Farm. It was renamed the Massapequa Zoo and Kiddie Park a year later. This six-acre zoo had kiddie rides and animals. Local residents can recall that the Massapequa Drive In was located adjacent to the zoo from 1950 until 1968; before the zoo closed, visitors to the Drive-In purchased their tickets near Monkey Mountain and monkeys could be seen from car windows.
The zoo remained open until 1965 when the property was sold to a developer to make additional parking space for a shopping center. The Westfield Sunrise Mall now occupies this site.
Berman, Marisa L. Historic Amusement Parks of Long Island. The History Press, 2015.
Pallone, Jillian. “Frank Buck: Bring ‘Em Back Alive.” www.hofstra.edu/pdf/library/libspc-oe-lisi-frank-buck.pdf