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This is the second part of a two-part blog post on the Prospect Park Zoo, read the first part here.
End radio silence.
"The good ship West Point has been heard from. All fears that the prowling warships of the European combatants had intercepted it and carried off the animals, perhaps to provide amusement for the Kaiser's grandsons or the young Russian Grand Dukes, have been laid to rest" (Brooklyn Daily Eagle, November 7, 1914). A few days later the animals arrived safely but, on the day of the grand parade and exhibition, it rained.
Commissioner Ingersoll postponed the opening day until the following Saturday so all of the Brooklynites, who had put so much effort into securing the animals, could greet them. Yet not all was well on Prospect Lane. The Prospect Park Zoo now had nineteen bears confined to a space that should have accommodated six. The keepers were doing their best, using all available space, but the zoo was clearly crowded and undeniably insufficient. One might say the zoo was "bad news bears."
In November, the Brooklyn Citizens Committee was founded. It would morph into the Brooklyn Zoological Association the following month. The main focus of the new organization was to support the zoo and secure funds for a new facility. How they would secure the funds, however, was still very much up for debate. Commissioner Ingersoll proposed a new tax. Others preferred a pledge drive much like the one the Eagle had run. Lions are one thing, zoos are another. The new facility was slated to cost roughly $16,000.
Prospect Park Menagerie card. 19-?, Brooklyn Collection. Brooklyn Public Library.
On April 21st, 1916, with the help of Brooklyn's citizens, both average and high-profile, the first of three proposed wings opend to the public.
Prospect Park Zoo, Brooklyn, N.Y., Postcard, 191-?, Brooklyn Collection, Brooklyn Public Library.
Watching The Seals At Zoo, Brooklyn, N.Y., Postcard, 191-?, Brooklyn Collection, Brooklyn Public Library.
The new facility had more room for the animals who currently resided at the zoo and additional space for more exotic animals. Chicken hawks arrived from outer Queens, homeless after their house took an unfortunate tumble.
As of 1923, just under a decade after the Eagle worked tirelessly to acquire a portion of the Bostock collection, the same Eagle remarked that the hand-me-down animals were dying and the new houses, all three wings having been completed, were crumbling. The Prospect Park Zoo would go through many more periods of great change over the course of the 20th century. It was taken over by the city in 1935 at the behest of Robert Moses, fell into ruin alongside much of New York in the 1970s and 80s, and was revitalized in the 1990s, as were the rest of the Wildlife Conservation Society's parks.
The Prospect Park Zoo has given millions of New Yorkers the chance to see the natural world up close. However dubious the origins of zoos, there is something irrefutably special about communing with nature.