Central Park Zoo

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New York, NY
United States
Central Park Zoo

Informally established in 1858 when a bear cub was found during the construction of Central Park, the zoo began as an impromptu menagerie with animals donated soon after the park's completion. With little planning the menagerie was sited next to the arsenal and Victorian structures gradually built to house the animals. Decay prompted Robert Moses to build a new zoo in 1934. The new complex was designed in sixteen days by Aymar Embury II and opened eight months later. The “picture-book zoo” was sited on a six-acre quadrangle centered around an amphitheater-like sea lion pond. New brick and concrete buildings housed animals and included a restaurant, with animal-inspired public art and statuary located throughout the zoo. In 1961 the Lehman's Children's Zoo was constructed on the western side of the zoo. Fairy tale themes accompanied the playful architecture, including a large concrete whale from Noah's ark and a straw house from the Three Little Pigs. Another planning effort was begun in the 1970s in keeping with changing standards for animal habitat. Construction began in 1985, with Kevin Roche designing plans for the new zoo and Lynden Miller responsible for perennial planting. Four perimeter buildings were redesigned for educational purposes and naturalistic habitats were arranged using Moses's quadrangle plan around the sea lion pond. The zoo opened in 1988 organized into tropical, temperate, and polar biomes. In the 1990s the children’s zoo was renamed the Tisch Children’s Zoo and renovated with a more interactive environment designed by Quennell Rothschild and Partners.