Woodland Park Zoological Society Board Subject Files, 1984-2008

Overview of the Collection

Woodland Park Zoological Society
Woodland Park Zoological Society Board Subject Files
1984-2008 (inclusive)
1987-1997 (bulk)
2.2 cubic feet, (6 boxes)
Collection Number
Records, reports, and communications of the board of the Woodland Park Zoological Society and its committees.
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 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.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

Various files of the Woodland Park Zoological Society (WPZS) Board. Records encompass the years 1984-2008, but are heavily focused in the years of 1987-1997. Some records pertain to the operations of the Board itself, including membership directories, committee rosters, articles and bylaws, annual reports, and audits. There are records from the various Board committees along with associated documents such as financial statements, marketing materials, member surveys, fund raising campaigns, and plans relating to the 1985 Zoo Bond and subsequent 10-year development plan. For the years 1986-1997, there are notes on the planning and outcomes of the Board's Annual Meetings (including Chairman's/President's Dinners) and Annual Retreats. There are abundant records pertaining to the Zoo Commission II and the Board's subsequent assumption of the management of the zoo, including a great deal of email communications from 2001-2002.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Preferred Citation

[Item and date], Woodland Park Zoological Society Board Subject Files, Record Series 8604-02. 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 Zoo Board Special Steering Committee - Zoo Comission II 1994-1995 1994-1995
1 2 Zoo Commission II Partnership Task Force 1996 1996
1 3 Zoo Operations + Management Transition 2000-2002 2000-2002
1 4 Zoo Management Transition - Email Correspondence Jan-April 2001 2001
1 5 Zoo Management Transition - Email Correspondence May-July 2001 2001
1 6 Zoo Management Transition - Email Correspondence August-October 2001 2001
1 7 Zoo Management Transition - Email Correspondence November 2001 2001
1 8 Zoo Management Transition - Email Correspondence December 2001-January 2002 2001-2002
2 1 Zoo Board Food Services Planning 1985, 1991 1985, 1991
2 2 Zoo Board 1987 Executive Director Search 1987
2 3 Zoo Board Articles + Bylaws 1988-1993 1988-1993
2 4 Zoo Board Miscellaneous Correspondence 1988, 1993 1988, 1993
2 5 Zoo Board Finance Committee 1988-2000 1988-2000
2 6 Financial Statements with Auditors' Reports 1989-1991, 1995-1996 1989-1996
2 7 Zoo Board Committee Membership 1989-1992 1989-1992
2 8 Zoo Board Nominating Committee 1989-1996 1989-1996
2 9 Zoo Board Member Directories + Photos 1989-2008 1989-2008
2 10 Zoo Board City of Seattle Contract + Correspondence 1990-1995 1990-1995
2 11 Zoo Board Honors Committee 1991-1992 1991-1992
2 12 Zoo Board Annual Reports 1991-1996 1991-1996
2 13 Zoo Board Self-Assessment March 1995 1995
2 14 Zoo Board Operating Plans + Organizational Calendars 1995-1998 1995-1998
2 15 Zoo Board Holiday Gift Certificates 2000 2000
3 1 1984 Zoo Commission 1984
3 2 Zoo Board Zoo Bond Oversight Committee 1990-1997 1990-19997
3 3 1985 Zoo Bond 1985
3 4 Zoo 10-Year Development Program 1987-1990 1987-1990
3 5 Zoo Board Executive Committee 1990-1996 1990-1996
3 6 Zoo Board Marketing Communications Committee 1994-1997 1994-1997
3 7 Zoo Board Marketing Materials 1988-1991 1988-1991
3 8 Zoo Board Member Surveys 1989, 1992, 1995 1989-1995
3 9 Zoo Board Reputation Strategy Project 1991 1991
3 10 Zoo Board 1996 Marketing and Public Relations Year-End Report 1996
3 11 Zoo Board Corporate Gifts Committee 1991 1991
3 12 Zoo Board Development Committee 1994-1995 1994-1995
3 13 Zoo Board Development Committee 1996-1998 1996-1998
3 14 Zoo Board Jungle Party 1988-1993 1988-1993
3 15 Zoo Board Donors and Giving Campaigns 1988-2006 1988-2006
3 16 Zoo Board Guest Services Committee 1997 1997
3 17 Zoo Board Public Affairs Task Force 1997 1997
4 1 Zoo Board Education and Outreach Committee 1992-1997 1992-1997
4 2 Zoo Board Conservation Committee 1993-July 1997 1993-1997
4 3 Zoo Board Conservation Committee August 1997-January 1998 1997-1998
4 4 Zoo Board 1986 Annual Meeting 1986
4 5 Zoo Board 1987 Annual Meeting 1987
4 6 Zoo Board 1988 Annual Meeting 1988
4 7 Zoo Board 1989 Annual Meeting + President's Dinner (includes photo negatives) 1989
4 8 Zoo Board 1990 Annual Meeting + President's Dinner 1990
4 9 Zoo Board 1991 Annual Meeting + Chairman's Dinner 1991
5 1 Zoo Board 1991 Annual Meeting + Chairman's Dinner 1991
5 2 Zoo Board 1992 Annual Meeting + Chairman's Dinner 1992
5 3 Zoo Board 1993 Annual Meeting + Chairman's Dinner 1993
5 4 Zoo Board 1994 Annual Meeting + Chairman's Dinner 1994
5 5 Zoo Board 1994 Annual Meeting Response Cards 1994
5 6 Zoo Board 1995 Annual Meeting + Chairman's Dinner 1995
5 7 Zoo Board 1995 Annual Meeting + Chairman's Dinner 1995
5 8 Zoo Board 1996 Annual Meeting + Tundra Center Dedication 1996
5 9 Zoo Board 1997 Annual Meeting + Chairman's Dinner 1997
5 10 Zoo Board 1986 Annual Retreat 1986
5 11 Zoo Board 1987 Annual Retreat 1987
6 1 Zoo Board 1988 Annual Retreat (includes photo) 1988
6 2 Zoo Board 1989 Annual Retreat 1989
6 3 Zoo Board 1990 Annual Retreat 1990
6 4 Zoo Board 1991 Annual Retreat (includes photos and negatives) 1991
6 5 Zoo Board 1993 Annual Retreat 1993
6 6 Zoo Board 1994 Annual Retreat 1994
6 7 Zoo Board 1995 Annual Retreat 1995
6 8 Zoo Board 1996 Annual Retreat 1996

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Boards and Commissions
  • Woodland Park Zoo
  • Zoos--Washington (State)--Seattle