Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Sad History of the Old Los Angeles Zoo

I posted this photo on Facebook the other day, and had people guess what they thought it was:

Some of the responses were: "Alcatraz", "a basement", "Hannibal Lecter's cell", "prison break".

None of these responses were very far off.  In fact, what you are looking at is the inside of one of the cages from the Old Los Angeles Zoo.

This is an abandoned zoo located in Griffith Park.  The Old Zoo was closed in the 1960s when the zoo was moved to another location within Griffith Park.  For a long time, the old zoo area was closed off to the public, but it has since been opened--and in fact, there are picnic tables sitting in the old bear habitats.  So in the above picture, I am actually IN one of the cages.

If you try to find historical photos of the original zoo, you won't find any.  You'll also find very little written about the zoo that existed during its time.  Some of the highlights:
"1912 - The Griffith Park Zoo opens with 15 animals."
"By 1956, the citizens of Los Angeles realized their city had outgrown the small Griffith Park Zoo and passed a $6.6 million bond measure to help build a new one."
Excerpt from an interesting article from Glendale College:
"The old Griffith Park zoo was small, simple and quaint ... which made it a poor match for a Los Angeles bent upon becoming bigger, better and more sophisticated."

I think information is difficult to find because the Zoo was a pretty black mark on the city--people tend to not want those types of things published.

The article from Glendale College gives a little more background to the old zoo.  In our visit, it is easy to imagine why the zoo needed to be "moved to a more congenial setting."  If there were animals in these cages, they would have been in the sun all day, baking.

I find places like this fascinating.  Our treatment of animals in the past was so deplorable--but in some cases, we haven't made things that much better.  After all--animals in zoos are still in cages.  Albeit much nicer ones.

Here are some more photos that I took.  I am definitely going back sometime with my tripod.  And a friend.  These places have lots of little nooks and crannies that I will NOT be visiting by myself.

(All pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them)

(above: historical photo--the aviary in this pic still exists.  I didn't get a pic of it)

 (the above is one of the few historical pictures I could find of a cage similar to the pictures here)

(For those that might notice, the end of the movie "Anchorman" was filmed here)


  1. What a cool find! Thanks for posting this most awesome post about it =o) With pictures...

  2. I just visited the old zoo today. Creepy. Awesome pictures though!


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