David & Karen Stover Visitor Center at Phillips Park & Mastodon Gallery
Everyday, is a Beautiful Day at Phillips Park!
Opened in October 2003, the visitor center at Phillips Park houses numerous educational exhibits and displays. Inside, find history of the park and its beginnings as well as history on the zoo. In the 1930’s, mastodon bones were discovered while digging out what is now mastodon lake in Phillips park. Those bones are on display in the gallery at the visitor center. See the “mastodon dig” statue just outside the visitor center that commemorates finding the mastodon bones. There is also an interactive kiosk which has information on the Lincoln highway. The Lincoln highway passed just adjacent to the park along side the Phillips park golf course.
Bathrooms and drinking fountains, along with a vending area for snacks and drinks, are also found at the visitor center.
Memorial Day through the summer months, the Mastodon Express (the tram at Phillips Park), boards at the visitor center. Visitors get a narrated 3 mile tram ride throughout Phillips Park full of historical facts and information.
David & Karen Stover Visitor Center Dedication
On May 22, 2008, the Visitor Center was dedicated and renamed after David & Karen Stover. David Stover, the 55th Mayor of Aurora, served two terms from April 1997 until April 2005. The Stover administration included emphasis on city owned park facilities and their stewardship of care. Founded in 1899, Phillips park is the crown jewel of the city park properties and the flagship park for Aurora and its visitors. During the Stover administration, many park capital renovations took place, including the creation of the permanent home for Aurora's mastodon bones, the renovation of the golf course, the renovation of the Sunken Garden, Phillips Park Visitor Center and zoo exhibit expansions. Karen Stover spent many volunteer hours in the redesign of the Sunken Garden and enhancing the park's appearance for family enjoyment of the beautiful park grounds
- Mastodons first appeared about 20 million years ago.
- Mastodons became extinct about 10,000 years ago.
- Mastodons are slightly smaller than modern day elephants.
- Mastodons were hunted by the first people to set foot in North America, just over 12,000 years ago.
- Mastodons were herbivores. They grazed on plants, shrubs and trees.
- Our mastodon skull weighs approximately 188 pounds.
- The lower jaw weights approximately 92 pounds.
- Mastodon tusks are hollow (similar to modern elephant tusks). Our tusks have been filled with plaster to help hold their shape and preserve them longer.
- Mastodons had shaggy coats of fur.
- Mastodon teeth differ from modern day elephants. Elephants teeth are flat with convoluted enamel ridges. Mastodon teeth were better suited for eating thicker vegetation.
- Mastodons weighed from 4 to 6 tons.
- Mastodons were about 6 - 10 feet high at the shoulder.
- Mastodons, when their bones were first discovered, were thought to be the mythical "cyclops". The center opening at the front of the skull actually is their nasal passage (the base of their trunk). The large openings on the sides of the skull are their ear openings. Their eyes were just in front of the ear openings.