Flashback Friday: A look at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

Deer House

In 1884, this was the Deer House at Wade Park Zoo. The Victorian-style structure is one of the oldest zoo buildings in the US and is still in use. Photo Courtesy of Cleveland Sate University, Michael Schwartz Library, Cleveland Memory Project.

As all the little ghosts and goblins prepare to enjoy “Boo at the Zoo” we thought it only fitting to feature our customer and partner Cleveland Metroparks Zoo for Flashback Friday!

Did you know Cleveland Metroparks Zoo was originally named Cleveland Zoological Park, and opened its doors in 1882 at Wade Park where the Cleveland Museum of Art currently sits? Neither did we until we started to research our fine city.

The land was donated by Cleveland Industrialist Jeptha Wade, who owned all of the property in the Wade Park area, and it quickly became known as “Wade Park” because Mr. Wade turned the land surrounding his home into a large park area for all to enjoy.

The Zoo was fairly small, only housing animals of local origin; mainly a herd of American deer and a few other local farm animals, nothing exotic.  In 1907, the City of Cleveland (who then owned it) decided to move the Zoo to its current location in the Old Brooklyn area of Cleveland to make space for the Cleveland Museum of Art.  Could you imagine going to the zoo in the Wade Park area?

The City of Cleveland had major plans in store for this little Zoo, because upon moving to its new location in 1907, the Cleveland Zoological Park gained 183 acres of land, acquired its very first elephant, and was equipped with the then very popular and quickly trending commodity known as electricity.  Beginning in 1910 new construction was underway for multiple animal exhibits.

Throughout the decades, the Zoo experienced the ups and downs of life like the rest of us; it underwent many expansions, but also experienced major setbacks including the loss of the entire reptile collection and multiple buildings due to flooding when Big Creek overflowed in January 1959.

In 1975, the Cleveland Metroparks took full ownership of the Zoo, and it experienced rapid expansion.  Mr. Wade would be proud to know that one hundred thirty-four years later, the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is home to 3,300 animals and over 500 different species, and it is undoubtedly one of Northeast Ohio’s most popular attractions as it welcomes more than a million visitors annually.

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