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Maps, clips, and more from the Oppenheim Zoo




In researching Max M. Oppenheim and the zoo he tried to leave behind, I came across some intriguing material about the zoo that could not quite fit the article, or was not quite usable as a printed image.

Now there is some room, and I am glad the internet has a long memory. So here is what was left on the virtual editing floor about the Oppenheim Zoo.

News clippings about Oppenheim Zoo

The antics of the creatures of the Oppenheim Zoo provided news reporters with what must have been welcome relief from the shenanigans of humans. The sheer glee and oddly familiar tone of a Sept. 1956 clip from the Courier Express tell you something about the place of a zoo in public life more than 50 years ago.

Niagara Falls attorney Mary Maloney supplied me with quite a few photocopies of clippings from the Niagara Gazette, pulled from the long-running newspaper's archives. Clips like this one, from August 1965, provide a glimpse at the cyclical presence of the Zoo in Niagara Falls life: monkeys and sitka deer join the flock, other animals leave.

As finances and circumstances turned sour for the Zoo around 1971 and 1972, part of the community rallied to its cause. These clips from the Gazette capture the public mood: uncertain, questioning, but hopeful.

What the Zoo looked like, how it could have looked

It was surprisingly hard to find a reliable map or diagram of a zoo and farm/park that once claimed more than 80 acres of Niagara County. A document released as part of the effort to rebuild the zoo provided a sketch of the original zoo layout. It was not a spacious place:

As committee members and architects looked to a potential rebuild and reboot for the Zoo (at an estimated cost of $8 million), the layout became far more varied and interesting. From the Oppenheim Zoo's nascent, early website, a rough image:

From the draft proposal submitted by Mark Ernst and other architects for the Zoo's rebuild, a far more detailed version of what would have been built at the Oppenheim site, had funding and approval materialized:

The Oppenheim Zoo website

A website for the Oppenheim Zoo was built and accessible at least as early as 1999, and was updated quite regularly, as each successive rejuvenation and reuse plan was hoisted and let down. It's an impressive archive, accessible through the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine. There are informative texts, future plans, promises of a coming "Virtual Tour," and animated GIFs and other relics of the era.

Here is the Oppenheim Zoo page as it stood in May 2002:

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