Central Park Zoo
The zoo in Central Park is converted into a small safari-like park in a busy city.
The major entrance to the Wildlife Conservation Park, also known as the Central Park Zoo, is at Fifth Avenue and 64th Street behind the Georgian-style Arsenal building, and a smaller Children's Zoo just a few blocks north. The gate, a brick arched walkway, is topped by the Delacorte clock (installed in 1965) and an animal sculpture carousel. Six-foot bronze sculptured animals dance around the clock playing drums and other musical instruments. They are made by the Italian sculptor, Andrea Spadini. Timepiece and sculptures are restored in 1995; the clock is now digitally programmed. Nursery rhymes are played every half hour.
1934 – 1983 Robert Moses Zoo
Animals of the menagerie are moved to other zoos, when Commissioner of Parks Robert Moses is redesigning the menagerie into a state-of-the-art zoo which opens December 1934. In nine months nine buildings are built from red bricks with white trim at a cost of $400.000. It is a Work Progress Administration Project. Aymar Embury II designs the neo-Georgian brick and limestone zoo buildings in 1934. The sea lion pool is designed by Charles Schmieder. The zoo is laid out in a quadrangle around the sea lion pool.
The Robert Moses Zoo is still remembered for its wide variety of animals such as tigers, elephants, hippopotami, gorillas, and the like. It has many animal statues and weathervanes atop cages and buildings. There are eight concrete eagles installed in 1937 coming from a bridge over Shore Road (Brooklyn) to make room for the Brooklyn - Queens Expressway. The weather vanes are made by Wilhelm Hunt Diedrich and can still be seen in the zoo today. They are shaped like the animal in or around the building.
Wildlife Conservation Park 1988
By the 1960s, 1970s the Moses Zoo's facilities are considered inadequate and in 1980 the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) agrees with the City of New York to redesign and to manage the zoo.
All but two buildings are demolished in 1983, 1984, with the construction of natural open spaced habitats completed in 1988. The buildings are kept low. WCS experts and architects Kevin Roche, John Dinkeloo and Associates lead the makeover with a safari concept in mind.
In the new zoo open naturalistic enclosures can be found instead of iron bar cages. Park and zoo are blending into each other, as the high brick cafe has been taken out of sightline. The arcade forms a U with the Arsenal building while the red pillar bricks and the Arsenal have been laid in the same pattern. The glass-roofed arcade keeps visitors dry.
The centerpiece of the place is still the sea lion pool. It has been enlarged to twice the size of the original of the 1930's, but the feel is the same as the original. It is flanked by a glass-roofed colonnade. Nowadays visitors can see the animals under water, too, thanks to a plexiglass wall. The concrete eagles are reinstalled in the same locations: in four pairs surrounding the sea lion pool. The colonnade around the central garden links the tropic, the (ant)arctic and the temperate area of the zoo.
Penguins live in the Antarctic while polar bears only live in the Arctic; some zoos tend to offer a antarctic/arctic combination.
The low-relief limestone panels of animals by Frederick George Richard Roth are preserved and reused in the new zoo. The former birdhouse is serving as the gift shop today; the chimney and the limestone frieze are vestiges of the old zoo. The current zoo opens on August 8, 1988, and encompasses 5 plus acres.
A 20th-century zoo with a longer history
Central Park Zoo is since 1988 part of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), but in 1860, animals can already be found on the site of the zoo.
1864 – 1934 Central Park Menagerie
The Arsenal is built in the 1840s, as a munitions depot. From 1859, a menagerie has been set up in and around the Arsenal almost by accident when the park's workers receive dumped or donated animals such as 72 white swans. In 1862, a bear resides in the basement and other donated animals are showcased in outdoor cages, animals retired from the circus amongst them. Dressed and trained animals are a common sight and part of the entertainment. In 1864 the purportedly started menagerie is formally established as the Central Park Menagerie which is allowed to construct several animal enclosures. In 1871, the interior cages are removed because of danger and the stench. One polar bear and two sea lions arrive in 1874, and to this day these species can be found in Central Park.
Always nice to enter this zoo from Central Park to see the sea lion pool (the single holdover from the former zoo) or to cool off in the penguin exhibit.
Zoo maps Central Park Zoo
- Species: 130
- Animals: 1400
- 843 acres
- 1 million a year
- Safari concept
- Small zoo