Center for Wildlife Conservation Records, 1984-1997

Overview of the Collection

Woodland Park Zoological Society
Center for Wildlife Conservation Records
1984-1997 (inclusive)
0.8 cubic feet, (2 boxes)
Collection Number
Documenting the establishment, management, and programs of the Center for Wildlife Conservation, a nonprofit within the Woodland Park Zoological Society.
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.


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 Phinneys death in 1893, the property remained in limbo until the City purchased it from Phinneys 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 zoos 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 zoos most famous resident from 1953 until his death in 1968. The zoos profile was raised further in 1954 by the new KCTS childrens 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 plans 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 zoos managerial organization, which split tasks between the Citys 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.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The Center for Wildlife Conservation was established in 1989 under the Woodland Park Zoological Society, then a nonprofit fund-raising partner of the Zoo. Its aim was to help the zoo study and preserve endangered species and wildlife habitats, including developing conservation techniques and programs to be implemented at the zoo and establish a new animal health facility and an off-site breeding facility.

Records in this series document the establishment and management of the Center, its funding and its various programs. It includes articles of incorporation, meeting minutes, annual reports, correspondence, grant-seeking documents, and project documents.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Preferred Citation

[Item and date], Center for Wildlife Conservation Records, Record Series 8604-03. Box [number], Folder [number]. Seattle Municipal Archives.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
1 1 Board of Directors, staff, and committee rosters 1990-1991
1 2 General information and prospectus 1990-1992
1 3 Articles of incorporation and bylaws 1991
1 4 Board appointments 1991-1992
1 5 Pre-formation planning documents 1989
1 6 Planning documents 1989-1991
1 7 Grant search 1988
1 8 WPZS Finance Committee 1989-1991
1 9 Grants and private funding 1989-1992
1 10 Funding and budgets 1989-1999
1 11 Compliance reports 1991-1994
1 12 Financial statements and accounting 1991-1996
1 13 Audits 1991-1996
1 14 Washington State support 1989-1991
1 15 Correspondence with Representative Norm Dicks 1989-1992
1 16 Federal funding appeals 1989-1995
1 17 City of Seattle funding and support 1991
1 18 Cooperative agreement with USFWS 1991-1995
1 19 Annual reports 1989, 1994
1 20 News coverage 1991-1994
1 21 Newsletters 1992-1993
1 22 Implementation Plan 1993
2 1 Catalyst Marketing assessments and recommendations 1993
2 2 Adoption by Woodland Park Zoological Society 1997
2 3 Board meeting minutes 1990-1991
2 4 Board meeting minutes 1992-1997
2 5 Off-site facility search - McNeil Island 1985-1986
2 6 Off-site breeding facility/Animal Research and Conservation Center 1987-1992
2 7 Orangutan Genetics project 1989-1990
2 8 Regional cooperation 1989-1991
2 9 Odessa project 1990
2 10 Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Center in Rwanda 1990
2 11 Western Pond Turtle project 1990-1991
2 12 Overviews of projects 1990-1993
2 13 Off-site facility search - Carnation Farm 1991
2 14 Off-site facility search - Northwest Trek 1991
2 15 Captive Fisher Breeding 1992
2 16 Northern Spotted Owl project 1995
2 17 Woodland Park Zoo conservation programs 1995
2 18 Karesh, William - Coordinator 1988-1989
2 19 Sandy Andelman 1989-1991
2 20 Coordinator Jim Foster 1989-1991
2 21 David Towne correspondence 1990-1992
2 22 Executive Director search 1991
2 23 Resumes 1991-1995
2 24 Executive Director Jim Stevenson 1992
2 25 Scientific Director Sam Wasser 1992-1997

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Aquariums--Washington (State)--Seattle
  • Wildlife--Washington (State)--Seattle
  • Zoo animals--Washington (State)--Seattle
  • Zoos--Washington (State)--Seattle