The Detroit Zoological Garden

One of my favorite blogs to read recently has been a blog on the history of Corktown, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Detroit. While reading it the other day, I was surprised to discover that Corktown was once home to circus grounds and then later, Detroit’s first zoo.

You can read the full account of The Detroit Zoological Garden’s history on the Corktown History blog, but the stories of the zoo are fascinating. Some of the most bizarre accounts include a legend of the original circus owner skipping town and abandoning his animals, as well as the zoo having a human exhibit of “primitive people” on display.

As for this blog, as a lover all things old-timey and circus-themed, I wanted to share some of the older photographs and fliers, starting with a picture of The Detroit Zoological Gardens, post-demise, in 1906 after it was converted into a horse market.

The Detroit Zoological Gardens
from Corktown History

Here are some old fliers for the zoo, along with a listing of the animals, which was published by the Detroit Free Press, just prior to the zoo’s opening:

“These comprise huge cages of rare birds of many kinds, a colony of monkeys, two black bears, one cub of the same species, one sun bear, a beautiful animal, one jaguar, one hyena of most unamiable aspect, one superb silver lioness, a fat-tail sheep, the celebrated lion Duke, who has killed three men and evidently “aches” to kill another, a noble elk lately purchased of McKee Rankin, a pair of Cape (African) buffalos, the yak Mollie, so well known to visitors at Central Park, New York, a pair of sacred cattle and calf, and India deer, who would run his spike horns through a man in a second if he could get the opportunity, a boa-constrictor, thirteen and one-half feet long, foxes, badgers, coons, Muscovy ducks, and a pair of camels.”

detroit zoo flier
from Corktown History

zoo garden and skating park
from Corktown History

And finally, a great photo of a circus on Michigan Avenue, occurring after the zoo had closed in 1893:

circus grounds
from Corktown History, courtesy of The Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library



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