In 1912, Griffith Park Zoo was opened in Griffith Park, Los Angeles and proved instantly popular. As the years progressed however, they realised they’d need more space and so the entire zoo was moved 3.2km north to a new location within Griffith Park in 1966. The old zoo has not only been left abandoned, but also open to the public as a picnic area and hiking trail. The site has become popular among urban explorers as a result.
Eastlake Zoo in East Los Angeles was the first zoo in the LA area and opened in 1885. Griffith Park Zoo opened in 1912 and had 15 animals initially. Film producer William Nicholas Selig donated a number of animals in the mid 1920s after attempts to turn his studios into a theme park failed.
The zoo was extended in the 1930s however as time went by, criticism mounted over the inadequate enclosures and badly designed layout. The city of Los Angeles agreed to build a new zoo and Griffith Park Zoo’s animals were transferred there in 1966. The enclosures were left in situ and became part of the picnic area and hiking trail.
The following is account of the zoo told by a local on Yelp.com –
The old zoo at Griffith park is a strong mixture of erie and cool. It’s the kind of place that has been abandoned by time and transformed into a site of empty rusting cages some locked, some open, some broken. Smells of overgrown weeds and grass fight to overpower scents of dried piss soaking up the concrete corners.
One imagines what once was that will never be again; and I am pierced by a chill of melancholia for what this place has become. Once inhabited by animal life, surrounded by echoes of human life, children’s laughter, cotton candy, peanuts, music; is now forgotten, grim, used up and left to rot, tucked away behind bushes and robust trees. One of the most consuming of human fears is to one day be forgotten, left to die alone, unloved; and visiting the old zoo brings up these fears with a dose of acceptance for the natural impermanence of things. It is this very conundrum of nostalgia, melancholy and bitter (though graceful) acceptance, that makes the old zoo so cool to revisit.
It is pleasantly distracting if you are running through it on your morning workout. Astonishingly striking if you are doing a photo shoot on its grounds; and creepily romantic to come with a date; bringing up interesting topics of conversation inspired by the bizarre.
I like to run around this part of Griffith. It is not crowded like some of the parks main hikes and while the views are not of vast urban landscapes there is still an interesting array of eye-catching images that lead one to go introspectively inward instead, of simply admiring the outward vastness of the city.
If you dare trample the grounds early morning, you may see packs of coyotes scavenging for food; so if you bring small dogs, might want to keep them on a short leash.
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA