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The abandoned zoo in Griffith Park – Where the original Los Angeles Zoo was housed from 1912 to 1966

David Goran

Griffith Park is home to the remnants of what was, for five decades, the Los Angeles Zoo. It is located a few miles south of where the current zoo stands. The first zoo in Los Angeles was the Eastlake Zoo in East Los Angeles, which opened in 1885. The Griffith Park Zoo opened in 1912 with a grand total of 15 animals. The city moved its small animal collection from Eastlake (now Lincoln) Park to a ravine near where the Merry-Go-Round sits today.

The site of the first Los Angeles zoo, it opened in 1912 with 15 animals. Source

The site of the first Los Angeles zoo, it opened in 1912 with 15 animals. Source

In the mid-1920s, William Nicholas Selig, a pioneer of the American motion picture industry, donated many of the animals from his studios, which he had attempted to convert into an animal theme park, to the new zoo.

Old remnants of the Griffith Park Zoo in Los Angeles, California. Source

Old remnants of the Griffith Park Zoo in Los Angeles, California. Source

Inside of animal housing at the defunct Griffith Park Zoo. Source

Inside of animal housing at the defunct Griffith Park Zoo. Source

Controversy and dissatisfaction surrounding the zoo in Griffith Park is nothing new. As Los Angeles grew, the small Griffith Park Zoo was increasingly criticized as an “inadequate, ugly, poorly designed and under-financed collection of beat-up cages”. A renovation in the 1930s thanks to the Works Progress Administration gave the zoo a new chance, but by the late 1950s, the city was talking about relocating the facility.

Most of the enclosures were built in the caves-with-iron-bars style which was then standard for zoos. Source

Most of the enclosures were built in the caves-with-iron-bars style which was then standard for zoos. Source1 Source2

The zoo was abandoned in 1966 when the current LA zoo opened. Source

The zoo was abandoned in 1966 when the current LA zoo opened. Source

In 1958 the city passed a $8 million bond measure to create a brand new zoo. Griffith Park Zoo closed in August 1966 and its animals were transferred to the new Los Angeles Zoo, which opened in November the same year.

Parts of the old zoo were dismantled, but some parts still stand. Source

Parts of the old zoo were dismantled, but some parts still stand. Source

The abandoned site is now a picnic area and hiking trail in Griffith Park. Source

The abandoned site is now a picnic area and hiking trail in Griffith Park. Source

Its grounds are fairly small and many of the buildings are gone. The abandoned site of the Griffith Park Zoo, complete with the ruins of animal enclosures, is now a picnic area and hiking trail in Griffith Park.