Today is the 140th anniversary of the opening of the Cincinnati Zoo. Established in 1873, the Cincinnati Zoological Garden opened its gates to the public on September 18, 1875. Modeled on the Victorian era zoos they remembered from Germany, zoo founder Andrew Erkenbrecher and his colleagues wanted to recreate that same sort of lush garden filled with animals from around the globe, and provide a place for cultural events and family outings for city dwellers.
And now, nearly a century and a half later, their vision lives on in the very same park they founded up on the hill in Avondale. Our gardens are grander, our animal exhibits are bigger and more naturalistic, and goodness knows, we have cultural and family events of every stripe. But the role of the Cincinnati Zoo for families of our region is much the same today as it was in our early days. We provide a beautiful park that serves as a respite from urban life, and we inspire our visitors with the wonders of wildlife.
I have always been heartened over the years with stories told to me by older Cincinnatians of their fond memories of visiting the zoo – tales of grand balls at the Clubhouse on Swan Lake, hearing Placido Domingo in his American debut at the Cincinnati Summer Opera, or how important Susie the gorilla was to them when she lived in what is now our Reptile House.
Of course, we do a great many things better today than we did in our early days. Our science, conservation, veterinary medicine, animal husbandry, horticulture and education programs have all been on a steady improvement curve for decades.
Today, the Cincinnati Zoo plays a key role in our community and around the world. And all of this is made possible because the people throughout our area really love this zoo. It is with their support we pay our bills, and through them how we make a difference.