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There used to be baby seals in the fountain at Rockefeller Center

Will Gleason

When it comes to Rockefeller Center being a setting for bizarre New York history, this strange tidbit really seals the deal.

We recently reached out to Rockefeller Center for some vintage photos of their iconic ice rink, and one of the photos they sent over really caught our eye. It depicts a zoo keeper feeding a baby sea lion in the Prometheus Fountain like it's no big deal. With a little digging, we found out that the sea lion actually moved into the fountain for an entire summer in 1941.

Photograph: Courtesy 2016 Rockefeller Group Inc/Rockefeller Center Archives

The caption on the photo reads:

"A keeper of the New York Zoological Society feeds the sea lions in the Prometheus Fountain pool in the Lower Plaza at Rockefeller Center."

The back of the photograph had some more information:

"Diners in the open-air Promenade Café in the Lower Plaza in Rockefeller Center are entertained by the baby sea lions in the waters of the Prometheus Fountain. Here one of the lions asks for some dinner too. On the street level and along the walk leading down to the Lower Plaza may be seen crowds enjoying the lions' capers. During July and August, these sea lions will live in their new home, thus adding to the tropical atmosphere of the Cactus Display. Then they will go back to New York's Bronx Zoo."

When it was time for the sea lions to head back to the zoo in August, they were replaced by 12 black-footed penguins for a time. And you thought Rock Center was only a zoo around the holidays.


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