Throwback Thursday: The Oregon Zoo started as a pit filled with bears (PHOTOS)

Apr 2 2020, 2:27 pm

Most of us have been there, and it’s one of the biggest tourist attractions in all of Oregon, but the Oregon Zoo hasn’t always been the sprawling wildlife conservation effort that it is today.

It began life as a bear pit. Yes. A pit with bears in it.

As our desire to head out into the outside world grows with every passing day stuck inside, we thought we’d take a look back for Throwback Thursday, to see what the Oregon Zoo used to look like.

Washington Park Bear Pit

Known in the late 1800s as the Washington Park Bear Pit, what would become a gigantic zoo started out as just a large, hole in the ground filled with bears after a Portland native began collecting wildlife from acquaintances that would travel the world, according to the zoo.

It was a popular attraction back then, and birthed the Portland Zoo (now Oregon Zoo) when animal owner Richard Knight gifted his bear collection to the city.

Washington Park Zoo, circa 1935 (City of Portland Archives)

Washington Park Zoo, circa 1949 (City of Portland Archives)

Washington Park Zoo, circa 1956 (City of Portland Archives)

By the mid-1900s, the Portland Zoo had expanded massively over the original park, and some of those exhibits and structures remain today. In the middle of the 1970s, the zoo would be renamed to the Washington Park Zoo.

The Oregon Zoo

In order to “better reflect the region”, the Washington Park Zoo was renamed to the Oregon Zoo in 1998, more than 100 years after it was first conceived, and has maintained that title ever since.

The modern zoo sees upwards of 2 million visitors to the grounds every year to visit their 1,800+ animals, and teaches more than 700,000 people per year through their education and class curriculum.

Let’s take a peek and see what it looks like now.

 

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