National Zoo: Mane Cafe – Washington DC

Description

The Public Works Administration (PWA) funded the building for a restaurant at National Zoo, constructed in 1939-40.  The restaurant building still serves the public today as the Mane Cafe.

In its 1939 fiscal year report, the National Zoo noted: “The Public Works Administration allotted the sum of $90,000 for the much-needed restaurant building at the Park. Work on plans for this building was commenced immediately by the Supervising Architect, Procurement Division, Treasury Department, and in a short time it is expected that bids will be let and construction begun. This will be a marked improvement in the service that the Zoo gives to the public.”

The buildings was designed in 1935 by Edwin Hill Clark, lead architect for all the New Deal additions to the National Zoo.  The work was supervised by the Treasury Department Procurement Division’s architectural office.  The actual construction was undertaken by private contractors.

The restaurant building is made of stone and was originally decorated with murals by Domenico Mortellito, known as “Noah’s Ark”.

Work began on the restaurant in March 1940, and it was completed later that fall. Its completion was described in detail in the Zoo’s 1941 annual report:

“It is of the Virginia tavern type of stone construction. The main dining room is beautifully decorated with murals of carved lacquered linoleum, executed and mounted by Domenico Mortellito. This, with the outside terraces overlooking the new waterfowl ponds, has proved to be a popular luncheon and dining place for the public. The new concessionaire, L. G. Leech, opened the restaurant for business on March 29, 1941. The area about the new restaurant was landscaped with evergreens and other trees and shrubs. An azalea garden of about 300 plants was laid out on the hillside west of the restaurant. This will greatly add to the beauty of the surroundings, especially when the plants are in bloom. In addition, about 200 wild azaleas, more than 100 dogwoods, and about 40 redbuds, as well as other trees and shrubs, were planted about the grounds.”

The Mane Cafe has been substantially modernized and Mortellito’s murals have been lost. The exterior remains the same.  A former waterfowl pond has been converted to a children’s play area.

 

Project Details

Federal Cost Local Cost Total Cost Project #'s
90000 90000

Source notes

“Report on the National Zoological Park,” in Appendix 7 of the Annual Report of the Board of Regents, The Smithsonian Institution: Showing the Operations, Expenditures, and Conditions of the Institution, for the Year Ending June 30, 1939, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1940.

“Report on the National Zoological Park,” in Appendix 7 of the Annual Report of the Board of Regents, The Smithsonian Institution: Showing the Operations, Expenditures, and Conditions of the Institution, for the Year Ending June 30, 1940, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1941.

“Report on the National Zoological Park,” in Appendix 7 of the Annual Report of the Board of Regents, The Smithsonian Institution: Showing the Operations, Expenditures, and Conditions of the Institution, for the Year Ending June 30, 1941, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1942.

Project originally submitted by Brent McKee on September 11, 2019.
Additional contributions by Maureen Budetti, Richard Walker.

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Location Info


3001 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington, DC 20008

Coordinates: 38.9319, -77.0497

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