What is the origin of the name of Bronx Zoo?

Tourist Attractions

By Christine Hitt

The History of Bronx Zoo

Bronx Zoo is one of the largest metropolitan zoos in the world, located in the Bronx borough of New York City. It is home to over 6,000 animals from around the world, spread over 265 acres of parkland. The zoo has a rich history, dating back over 120 years, and its name has become synonymous with the Bronx itself. But where did the name "Bronx Zoo" come from?

The Early Years of Bronx Zoo

Bronx Zoo was established in 1899 by a group of New York naturalists who wanted to create a zoo that would not only showcase exotic animals but also serve as a center for research and conservation. The zoo quickly became popular with both locals and tourists, drawing millions of visitors every year. However, in its early days, the zoo did not have a formal name. It was simply referred to as the "New York Zoological Park" or the "Bronx Zoological Park."

The Search for a Name Begins

As the zoo expanded and solidified its place as a leading cultural institution, the need for a more formal name became apparent. In 1906, the Bronx Zoological Society, the organization that managed the zoo, began a search for a name that would reflect the unique identity and character of the zoo. The society’s board of directors formed a committee to oversee the naming process, which included prominent community leaders, naturalists, and scientists.

The Bronx Park Commission Takes Over

In 1907, the management of the zoo was transferred from the Bronx Zoological Society to the newly created Bronx Park Commission, which was given the responsibility of overseeing all the parks in the Bronx. The commission continued the search for a name for the zoo and took a more active role in the process.

Finding Inspiration in Europe

In 1909, the commission sent a delegation of officials to Europe to study zoos and parks on the continent. The delegation included William Hornaday, the director of the zoo, and Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., the son of the famous landscape architect who had designed Central Park. While in Europe, the delegation visited numerous zoos and parks, including the Jardin des Plantes in Paris and the Tiergarten Schönbrunn in Vienna.

The Name is Chosen

After months of deliberation and discussion, the commission finally settled on a name for the zoo in 1910. It was decided that the zoo would be called the "Bronx Zoological Park," but would be commonly referred to as the "Bronx Zoo" for short. The name captured the essence of the zoo’s location in the Bronx and its status as a premier zoological park.

The Meaning Behind the Name

The name "Bronx Zoo" is a nod to the location of the zoo in the Bronx, which was named after Jonas Bronck, a Scandinavian settler who purchased the land in 1639. The name also reflects the zoo’s commitment to showcasing exotic animals from around the world in a naturalistic setting.

The Zoo’s Impact on the Bronx

Bronx Zoo has had a profound impact on the Bronx over the past century. It has been a major cultural institution and tourist destination, bringing millions of visitors and generating significant economic activity for the borough. The zoo has also been a leader in conservation and research, helping to protect endangered species and advance our understanding of the natural world.

Changes to the Zoo’s Name

Over the years, the name of the zoo has been modified several times. In 1967, it was officially renamed the "Bronx Zoo," dropping the word "park" from its name. In 2006, the zoo’s parent organization was renamed the "Wildlife Conservation Society" to reflect its broader mission beyond the Bronx.

The Legacy of Bronx Zoo’s Name

The name "Bronx Zoo" has become an iconic part of the cultural landscape of New York City. It is synonymous with the Bronx and is recognized around the world as a premier zoological institution.

Conclusion: A Name that Stands the Test of Time

The name "Bronx Zoo" has stood the test of time, remaining relevant and resonant over 100 years after it was first chosen. It reflects the unique character and identity of the zoo and the borough in which it is located, and has become an important part of the cultural fabric of New York City.

References and Further Reading

  • "History of the Bronx Zoo." Wildlife Conservation Society. https://bronxzoo.com/about/history
  • "Bronx Zoo." Encyclopædia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/place/Bronx-Zoo
  • "The Bronx: A Swedish Connection." Swedish-American Historical Society. https://www.swedishamericanhist.org/bronx-swedish-connection/
Photo of author

Christine Hitt

Christine Hitt, a devoted Hawaii enthusiast from Oahu, has spent 15 years exploring the islands, sharing her deep insights in respected publications such as Los Angeles Times, SFGate, Honolulu, and Hawaii magazines. Her expertise spans cultural nuances, travel advice, and the latest updates, making her an invaluable resource for all Hawaii lovers.

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