Staten Island Zoo, 1936A general view of the cages at the zoo in Barrett Park. Courtesy of the Parks Photo Archive, Neg. 9575.
The Clarence T. Barrett Park Zoo (also known as Staten Island Zoo) is located in Barrett Park, on the former estate grounds of Colonel Edward Hardin. After Hardin’s wife willed the property to the city in the early 1930s, it was developed into a zoo with New Deal support:
“When construction began in 1933-34, the zoo’s plans were state of the art. Parks used New Deal-era Civilian Conservation Corps labor to help build the $150,000 facility. The exhibits and the zoo’s care for its animals were modern for their time and helped the institution avoid some of the trouble other city zoos faced when their facilities became out of date…
The earliest animals to inhabit the zoo were housed in a barn on the site during construction of the facility, which opened on June 10, 1936. But since its opening in 1936, the Staten Island Zoo has been best known for its snakes… The zoo’s reptilian preeminence led it to sponsor the first International Snake Exhibit, held in Grand Central Palace in 1936.” (www.nycgovparks.org)
While the Parks Department attributes the zoo to the CCC, this is unlikely, since the Civilian Conservation Corps worked almost entirely in rural areas. In fact, a March 1934 Parks Department press release states that “the cost of construction and the payroll will be met by C.W.A. funds.” The Civil Works Administration (CWA) only existed from November 1933 to July 1934 and was replaced by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in 1935. The zoo was probably started with CWA support and completed with WPA labor, since the WPA was very active in New York City from 1935 to 1942.
The Staten Island Zoo was the first in the United States designed specifically for an educational purpose. In 1942, it also became the first US zoo to hire a full time woman veterinarian. The zoo has grown in size and popularity since the 1930s. It was renovated in 1969 and again in the 1980. It remains committed to species preservation, education and community outreach.
https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/barrettpark/history https://www.nycgovparks.org/about/history/zoos/staten-island-zoo https://www.statenislandzoo.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3&Itemid=77 Department of Parks, Press Release, March 6, 1934. Department of Parks, Press Release, June 9, 1936
Project originally submitted by Evan Kalish on September 17, 2013.
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