The Passion Project to Bring a Rainforest to Iowa

Ted Townsend was a rich heir with a dream: He wanted to build a functioning rainforest in Iowa, complete with apes. He had travelled extensively and was enamored with the way we could learn from apes and the way they learned from us. He had inherited a fortune in sausage money and he was ready to spend generously. Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley pulled some old-school politician shit to get $50M earmarked for the facility that the architect described as “like building Jurassic Park.” To get the federal money, however, they needed to get matching contributions from the private sector. That proved to be an issue as the private sector thought that the idea was awful. Complaints ranged from environmental impact to tax money usage and the project languished until dying out in 2007. In its way it was a beautiful, bold idea, though, and Inverse goes back to give it a good look.

An Oral History of the Indoor Rainforest Iowa Almost Built, 8.14.15