Woodland Park Zoo Director's Records, 1967-2004

Overview of the Collection

Woodland Park Zoo
Woodland Park Zoo Director's Records
1967-2004 (inclusive)
4 cubic feet, (10 boxes)
Collection Number
Records from the office of the Woodland Park Zoo Director.
Seattle Municipal Archives
Seattle Municipal Archives
Office of the City Clerk
City of Seattle
PO Box 94728
Seattle, WA
Telephone: 2062337807
Fax: 2063869025
Access Restrictions

Records are open to the public.


Content DescriptionReturn to Top

Records of the Director of Woodland Park Zoo. Includes the papers of Directors David Hancocks (departed 1983) and David Towne (term 1984-2002). Subjects include all components of Zoo operations (animals, budget, City of Seettle, foreign exchanges, neighborhood relations, work plans, and facilities improvements) and both external and internal communications. There are records related to elephant management (and restraining devices), and Ivan the Gorilla from Tacoma. Topics often overlap with other record series in the Woodland Park Zoo collection, including Animal Management and the Historical and Administrative Records. Records are primarily correspondence, memos, planning, reports, and surveys.

Historical NoteReturn to Top

The Woodland Park Zoo began its existence as a small private animal collection established by Seattle developer Guy C. Phinney (1852-1893) on the northwest corner of his 179-acre Woodland Park Estate. This menagerie included North American animals like deer and black bear, as well as more exotic specimens like African ostriches. After Phinney's death in 1893, the property remained in limbo until the City purchased it from Phinney's widow in 1899 for $100,000, despite a veto by Mayor Thomas D. Humes. It became a part of the municipal parks system and was overseen by the Department of Parks and Recreation. The menagerie grew in 1903, when the animals from a private zoo in Leschi Park were absorbed, providing the foundation from which Woodland Park Zoo would grow.

The zoo developed gradually during its first half-century. New facilities like the Lion House (completed 1919) and the Beaver Pool (completed 1936) were periodically opened and populated with new specimens brought in from around the world. Controversy arose in 1932 when, against fierce public opposition, the city went forward with plans to construct a six-lane highway (now Aurora Avenue) directly through Woodland Park, separating the zoo from the larger lower park area to the east. Historical events affected the zoo's operation, as with slashed budgets and near closure during the Great Depression, and an anti-aircraft gun emplacement in the North Meadow during World War II.

The postwar period featured more rapid expansion as well as a growing incorporation into municipal society. Buoyed by municipal bond issues in 1948 ($800,000) and 1960 ($150,000), the zoo completed a diverse set of new facilities, including an Animal Health Department (completed 1953) and the Great Ape House (completed 1957). A longtime inhabitant of the latter building was a male lowland gorilla named Bobo, who was the zoo's most famous resident from 1953 until his death in 1968. The zoo's profile was raised further in 1954 by the new KCTS children's program "Buttons and his Buddies," which followed zoo animals and staff during its 17-year run on the air. The most consequential development of this time, ultimately, may have been the 1965 founding of the Seattle Zoological Society (later Woodland Park Zoological Society) as a promotional and fund-raising organization auxiliary to the Parks Department.

The zoo received a significant financial boost in 1968, when the Forward Thrust program earmarked $4 million for a program of facility building and improvement at Woodland Park. The City enlisted a team led by architect George Bartholick to construct a long-range design plan. The Bartholick Plan, as it was known, envisioned a zoo of larger and more naturalistic exhibit spaces, but also - and more controversially - a connection to the lower park via a lid over Aurora Avenue. Concerned over the potential effect on existing park space, a citizen coalition called Save Woodland Park led a movement in opposition that resulted in the plan's 1974 defeat by public vote. Mayor Wes Uhlman then empanelled a task force of citizens and experts to formulate a new strategy, which eventually resulted in the Hancocks/Jones & Jones Plan, approved in 1976. Though less ambitious than the Bartholick Plan, the Long-Range Plan still incorporated naturalistic elements in the form of ecology-based "bioclimatic zones" into the design, setting a conceptual benchmark for future development.

Guided by the Long-Range Plan as well as growing public interest in issues of zoological conservation, Woodland Park Zoo subsequently committed to creating facilities that closely resembled the natural habitats of their animals. For example, 1979 saw the opening of the Lowland Gorilla exhibit, one of the first in the world to exchange generic cage space for native flora and landscaping for large primates. Following the exhaustion of Forward Thrust funds in the early 1980s, the zoo entered a period of financial stagnation, partially alleviated by donations and admission fees (first charged in 1977). Public concern in 1984 prompted Mayor Charles Royer to empanel a Zoo Commission of citizens, staff, labor representatives and civic leaders to consider the problem. The report published the following year recommended a new round of county bond issues for needed capital improvements. Passed by voters that November, the bonds generated $31.5 million, along with $10 million in private matching donations, and resulted in facilities like the Asian Elephant Forest exhibit (completed 1989).

New funding concerns prompted the creation of the Zoo Commission II in 1995 to formulate a fresh round of recommendations. In its report, the commission criticized the zoo's managerial organization, which split tasks between the City's Department of Parks and Recreation and the private Woodland Park Zoological Society, as cumbersome and wasteful of money and effort. In response, the City Council voted in 2001 to consolidate zoo administration under the Society. Under the terms of the 20-year contract signed in 2002, the Society was designated to take over full management of the zoo. The City oversees the contract and provides annual public funding. Today the zoo maintains a reputation for excellence among U.S. zoos for exhibits and education programs, and its 1,100 animal specimens attract over a million visitors per year.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Preferred Citation

[Item and date], Woodland Park Zoo Director's Records, Record Series 8602-01. Box [number], Folder [number]. Seattle Municipal Archives.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
1/1 Forward Thrust Capital Improvements 1967-1983
1/2 Long Range Planning 1980-1985
1/3 Seattle 1-2-3 Bond Issue 1985
1/4 Zoo Bond Program and Project Development 1986-1987
1/5 Capital Campaigns 1986-1990
1/6 Zoo Bond [1985] Completion Celebration 1998
1/7 Marketing Plan 1999
1/8 Pro Parks Levy 2000
1/9 Market Study 1995
1/10 Woodland Park Zoological Society, Partnership Task Force Report 1996
1/11 Zoo 21 Long Range Planning 1997-1998
1/12 Zoo 21 Campaign and Funding 1997-1999
1/13 Phinney Ridge Neighborhood and Long Range Planning Meetings 1999
1/14 Master Plan and Long Range Planning 1999
2/1 Master Plan and Long Range Planning 1999
2/2 Environmental Impact Statement [EIS] and Long Range Planning, Public comments and determination of significance 2000
2/3 Legal Correspondence, Post-Hearing Briefs, Long Range Plan 2002
2/4 Long Range Plan 2002-2004
2/5 Environmental Impact Statement [EIS] / Master Plan 2002-2004
2/6 Transition Plan for City Operations Transfer, Draft 2001
2/7 Employee Transition Agreement 2002
2/8 Exhibit B, Food Concession Agreement 1993
2/9 Willis Corroon Loss Control Services, Property Report on Insuring Woodland Park Zoo 1998
3/1 Office of the Mayor 1975-1996
3/2 Mayor's Citizens Committee for the Future Development of the Zoo 1974-1979
3/3 Mayor's Zoo Action Task Force 1975
3/4 Mayor's Zoo Action Task Force 1972-1975
3/5 Zoo Commission II Resolution and Briefing Packet 1995-1996
3/6 Zoo Commission II Meetings 1995
3/7 Zoo Commission II Working File 1995-1997
3/8 Zoo Commission II Working File 1995-1996
3/9 Zoo Commission II Working File 1995-1996
3/10 Zoo Commission II, General Correspondence A 1994
4/1 Zoo Commission II, General Correspondence B 1995-1996
4/2 Zoo Commission II, General Correspondence C 1996-1997
4/3 Arts, Recreation and Culture Task Force, Merger of Zoo and Aquarium Discussion 1996
4/4 City of Seattle Youth Hall of Fame, Two Thousand in 2000 1998
4/5 Amercian Zoological Association [AZA] Annual Conference, Seattle 1995
4/6 Amercian Zoological Association [AZA] Accreditation 1993-2002
4/7 Amercian Zoological Association [AZA] Accreditation Renewal 2003-2004
4/8 Amercian Zoological Association [AZA] - Zoo Surveys 1997-2000
4/9 Amercian Zoological Association [AZA] Correspondence 1996-1997
4/10 American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums [AAZPA], Hurricane Fund, Miami 1992
4/11 American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums [AAZPA] Accreditation 1988
4/12 International Zoo Yearbook Questionnaire 1984
4/13 International Snow Leopard Trust, Dinner and Grant 1997
4/14 Conservation Breeding Specialist Group 1997-1998
4/15 Species Survival Plan 1996-1998
5/1 Zoological Society, Work Plans 1988-1990
5/2 Zoological Society, Agreements and Finances 1985-1987
5/3 Exchanges, Kobe, Japan - Sister City 1987-1996
5/4 Exchanges, Sister Cities in Africa 1988-1991
5/5 Exchanges, Australia and New Zealand 1986-1988
5/6 Exchanges, Australia and New Zealand 1989-1994
5/7 Exchanges, Chongqing, China 1991
5/8 Exchanges, Chongqing, China 1991
5/9 Exchanges, Chongqing, China 1992
5/10 Exchanges, Chongqing, China 1993-1996
5/11 Chinese Delegation Visit 1999
5/12 Staff Travel Report - Malasian Borneo 1998
5/13 Exchanges, Airline Sponsorships and Discounts 1991-1993
6/1 Seattle Children's Theater 1986-1992
6/2 Seattle Children's Theater and Poncho Theater Reclamation Issues 1988-1992
6/3 Seattle Children's Theater and Poncho Theater Issues 1983-1987
6/4 Poncho and Children's Zoo Theater 1971-1987
6/5 Poncho Theater Renovation 1984-1987
6/6 Utilities 1995-1996
6/7 Water Conservation 1995-1996
6/8 Meetings of Seattle Area Museum Directors 1993-1997
6/9 Zoo Membership Processing 2000
6/10 Facilities and Exhibits - Design Updates 1999
6/11 Zoo Surveys 1984-1985
6/12 Jungle Party 1991
6/13 Operations Update 1996
6/14 Director-led Tours of African Safari 1991-1995
6/15 Conservation and Education Programs 1985-1987
6/16 Conservation and Education Projects 1999
6/17 Wild Wise Education Program Statistics 2001
7/1 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Science Education Grant 1993
7/2 Volunteer Programs 1997-1998
7/3 Staffing, Work Issues Committee 1994-1999
7/4 Staff Retreats 1993-2001
7/5 Staffing, Zoo Director Search 1984
7/6 David Hancocks [with Photographs], Director Accolades and Portraits undated
7/7 Phinney Ridge Neighborhood Relations 1988-1992
7/8 Phinney Ridge Neighborhood Relations 1993-1996
7/9 Phinney Ridge Neighborhood Relations 1997-2001
7/10 Phinney Ridge Neighborhood Relations 1997-1998
8/1 Staffing, Work Program and Team Goals 1996
8/2 Staff Work Plan 1997
8/3 Staff Work Plan 1998
8/4 Staff Work Plan 1999
8/5 Budget 1999-2000
8/6 Visitors, Weekly Attendance Reports and Revenue 1984
8/7 Legal, United States Department of Agiculture [USDA] Permits 1984-1995
8/8 Legal, Governance with City 1982-1988
8/9 Legislation, State Funding 1984-1995
8/10 Legislation, State Issues 1984-1988
8/11 Jaguar Exhibit Improvements 1996-1998
8/12 African Village Exhibit Design 2000-2001
8/13 Animal Management Retreat 1991
8/14 Breeding Loan Status Report 1982-1983
8/15 Breeding Loan Agreement, New York Zoological Society 1985-1987
8/16 Animals, Orangutan Escape 1991
9/1 Animals, Artificial Insemenation 1989
9/2 Animals, Gorilla, Kiki (Death) 1991
9/3 Animals, Gorilla, Congo (Arrival) 1992
9/4 Animals, Gorilla, Ivan 1987-1992
9/5 Animals, Gorilla, Ivan 1992-1993
9/6 Animals, Gorilla, Ivan 1993-1994
9/7 Animals, Gorilla, Ivan 1994-1996
9/8 Animal Exhibit and Facilities Improvements 1987-1991
9/9 Animal Related Issues and Correspondence 1985-1993
9/10 Animal Escapes 1987-1990
9/11 Animal Acquisitions, Proposed 1984-1988
9/12 Animal Management 1987-1996
10/1 Elephant Survey 1988-1989
10/2 Elephant Restraint Cage Modifications 1992-1995
10/3 Elephants, Director's Correspondence with Public Feedback 1988
10/4 Elephants, Director's Correspondence with Public Feedback 1988
10/5 Elephant Management, Memos and Correspondence 1983-1992
10/6 Elephant Management, Handling Protocol and Legislation 1989-1992
10/7 Elephant Management, Handling Protocol, Legislation, News Articles 1988-1991

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Woodland Park Zoo
  • Zoo animals--Washington (State)--Seattle
  • Zoos--Washington (State)--Seattle

Personal Names

  • Hancocks, David (creator)
  • Towne, David (creator)

Corporate Names

  • Woodland Park Zoo