The Central Park Zoo
1934, the original Central Park Menagerie, which was just wooden sheds and
some cages, was torn down and replaced by nine brick and concrete buildings
and with landscaping and seal pool, designed by CWA-paid Parks Department
architects   [10,p.352] , the materials paid for by the CWA
[2,pp.383-385], and the labor also. The Zoo was renovated in the 1980s;
shows the the
original parts that still remain, including two buildings and the Dancing Goat
and Dancing Bear
statues by Frederick Roth, plus numerous friezes.
Central Park Zoo Opening Day, December 2, 1934.
The Gift Shop, pictured above, is one of the few 1934 buildings that
survives after the entire zoo was rebuilt in 1988. This was the design of
all the buildings: brick topped by a limestone frieze showing what to find
inside the building (in this case birds — click the Enlarge button
to see), with a slate roof and an ornate chimney.
- Rosenzweig, Roy, and Elizabeth Blackmar,
Park and the People: A History of Central Park, Cornell University Press
- Caro, Robert A., The Power Broker - Robert Moses and the Fall of New
York, Vintage Books (1974).
Report of the Department of Parks to August 1934: Memorandum on 1935
Budget Request of the Department of Parks, NYC Department of Parks archive.
“Since January 19th of this of year the Department of Parks has spent
$26,000,000.00 on new construction from Work Relief funds ... New
construction projects include ... Complete new zoos will be finished in
Central Park... The sheepfold in Central Park has been converted into a
modern tavern ... The lower reservoir area in Central Park will be rebuilt
and opened to the public...”
of Central Park Zoos, Parks Department Website (accessed 5 March 2018):
"The new brick and limestone "picture-book zoo" was designed in just 16 days
by an in-house design team headed by Aymar Embury II. Construction on
the roughly six-acre zoo took only eight months, helped along by
federally financed Works Progress Administration (WPA) labor."
"In 1934 Parks Commissioner Robert Moses used Works Progress Administration
(WPA) funds to construct what was, for its time, a state-of-the-art
Park Zoo at the NYC Parks Department website, gallery of pictures and
Does Its Bit to Make Central Park a Hodgepodge,
Chicago Daily Tribune, March 21, 1939, p.10.
Embury, Wikepedia. He was the chief or consulting architect for the
Central Park and Prospect Zoos, the Prospect Park Bandshell, the Corona Park
Pool and Bathhouse (and three others), the New York Pavilion at the 1939
World's Fair (now the Queens Museum of Art) and the Argentine Pavilion, the
Triborough Bridge, the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge, the Henry Hudson Bridge, the
Little Hell Gate Bridge, Orchard Beach, Bryant Park, the Hofstra University
campus, Jacob Riis Park, and nobody even knows how many more New
Embury II Papers, Syracuse University.
- Frederick Roth,
Wikipedia ["From 1934 to 1936, he worked under the Works Projects
Administration as the head sculptor for the New York City Department of
Parks and Recreation"].
- New York City Parks
Department press release of November 28, 1934, announcing the opening
of the Central Park Zoo "designed by Aymar Embury, II,
with the assistance of the staff of architects of the Park Department. It is
simple, masonry construction. The exterior walls are of brick and all of the
interior walls are buff tile. The sculptured friezes by F. G. Roth are
excellent. Mr. Roth and the sculptors who assisted him carved these figures of
animals into the limestone by hand and did not follow the usual practice of
furnishing a clay model to stone carvers, who actually work on the
scaffolds." CWA funding and labor are not mentioned, but chairmen of
TERA and the NY Department of Public Welfare were among the speakers.
- Federal Writers' Project, The
WPA Guide to New York City, Random House (1939), p.352.
- New Deal Assistance in
NYC Parks Department Projects, 1934-43.
- The 1934 Zoo
at cpzbook.com (gallery).
- New York City Parks
Department press release of March 3, 1934: “The new Central Park
picture-book Zoo is under construction, work has started and will be
completed by early summer. The work of design has been done by
C.W.A. architects, landscape men and engineers in the employ of the
- Donahue, Jesse C.,
American Zoos During the Depression - A New Deal for Animals, McFarland
& Company (2010): "The zoo's rapid construction and pleasing design
... illustrated that relief laborers were not without skills. And, its
immense popularity immunized the project from any charges that the New Deal
was not serving the needs of the public." [p.24]