Goliath greets visitors to Space Farms Zoo & Museum. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
A Syrian Grizzly at the zoo. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
A child visiting the zoo visits the Fallow Deer. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Two lazy lions nap in the sun. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Parker Space visits with a pair of tiger. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Carly Hurd mans the snack area within the zoo. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
A Prairie Dog enjoys the summer warmth. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
An Assateague Pony at the zoo. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
A raccoon inspects visitors. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Parker Space walks into the museum. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
A corner of the toy museum. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
A wagon, once used by the Wyker Family, that traveled from Beemerville, NJ to Kansas, and back. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
A carriage once owned by President Teddy Roosevelt is in the museum. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
A red kangaroo who lives at the zoo, is an expectant mother. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Parker Space visits with George the Emu. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
An eagle, originally from Grand Central Station at the turn of the 19th Century, presides over the zoo. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
The Space Farms' signature above the entry foyer to the facility's main entrance. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Antique autos lined up within the museum. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Sussex County's first DPW vehicle. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Space Farms Zoo & Museum Celebrates 85th Anniversary on Saturday July 28
Wednesday, July 25, 2012 • 4:48pm
SUSSEX, NJ - Beemerville has a lot to celebrate on Saturday, July 28, when it will proudly honor its Fire Department as well as its most prominent landmark, Space Farms Zoo & Museum, which is celebrating 85 years in business with a special ceremony.
According to Fred Space, it is all about family. He lives day by day with the lessons he learned from his parents, Ralph and Elizabeth Space, founders of Space Farms Zoo & Museum.
'“It’s not work, it’s a way of life,”' Fred said, repeating advice from his father.
This way of life began in 1927, when his mother ran a general store and his father an auto repair shop on the corner of Wyker Road and 519.
Customers would come to the store to buy staples such as sugar and fabric. Mostly dairy farmers would run a tab, and pay up at the end of the week when the milk money came in. When the hard times of The Great Depression hit Sussex County, customers would bring in items of value to trade for their groceries, in good faith, such as a gun used by a relative during the Civil War, or a set of dolls brought by steamship from Europe.
These items, which Elizabeth displayed around the shop, formed the beginning of the museum.
Meanwhile, local police sought help from Ralph, to capture animals which were attacking farmers’ livestock, including fox and bobcats, which were plentiful in the area. Ralph set up cages outside his shop, thinking he would wait until the fall when their pelts would be more valuable.
One day, a banker arrived to collect Ralph’s mortgage payment, and exclaimed, “You should charge to show them!”
Ralph took him up on his offer and shot back, “You’re right…ten cents please.”
Fred still remembers the first day the family earned $100.
During the 1930’s, grocery stores began taking away Elizabeth’s customers. Since fur was very popular, the family closed the store and shifted their focus to raise mink and fox to sell, which they did until the 1970’s.
In the 1940’s the family began to receive requests from all over the world, to harbor orphaned wild animals such as tigers and lions. They became a rescue operation.
Fred explained, “Space Farms wasn’t planned, it just happened.”
The family adapted to changing times, but always kept and treasured their priceless heritage. As it always has been, the entire operation is run by family members.
Fred Space beamed with pride as he considered the impact his father, children and grandchildren have had on the town. Parker Space, Fred’s son and also a Sussex County Freeholder, manages Space Farms today, together with his son Hunter, the fourth generation, who is deeply involved in the day to day operations.
“Want to buy a pig?” Hunter asked The Alternative Press.
He is currently a junior at Sussex Vo-Tech High School, majoring in Business Administration. His vision is to expand the zoo.
Parker can testify to the challenges in remaining sustainable amidst a changing economy, but they have managed through floods, tornados and economic downturns for almost a century.
All agree that one rewarding aspect of their career is that every day is different. One minute involves feeding lions perhaps, the next, flipping burgers in the restaurant, harvesting hay from the fields, or answering a fire call.
Jill, Parker’s wife, said she treasures hearing frequent comments about Goliath, the giant bear who welcomes all at the front door:
“See that bear? I saw him when he was still alive!” she often hears called out.
It is a thrill for her to see customers return years later with their children and grandchildren, telling stories about their own field trips as children.
The Wantage Fire Company was founded by Ralph Space who served as its first chief in 1931. Fred served as chief in 1951, Parker in 2001, and today, Hunter is a junior member, always ready to answer the call.
Festivities begin next Saturday at 2pm. Bring a picnic lunch and get ready to experience a pristine piece of America at its best: showcasing its past and lovingly safeguarding it for all future generations.
Click here to learn more about Space Farms Zoo & Museum.