In keeping with social distancing, April’s Magical History Tour takes us on a memory-fueled journey to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. So crack open the photo album as we revisit a favorite Northeast Ohio attraction from the comfort of home.
A classic Cleveland crowd pleaser, the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo began on Sept. 15, 1882, when Jeptha H. Wade donated 73 acres of land and 14 American deer to the city of Cleveland in what is now University Circle’s Wade Oval. The arrival of the Cleveland Museum of Art in 1916 necessitated the move of the zoo’s small building and tiny but growing collection of animals to its current location in Brookside Park near West 25th Street.
Most of the zoo’s early menagerie were species native to the area, though there were some rather large exceptions like Minnie, Cleveland’s first zoo elephant, who joined the collection in 1907. By 1940 the zoo had added Monkey Island, Sea Lion Pools, and a bear exhibit. November 1940 brought Asian elephant Frieda, a favorite with zoo patrons until her death on Nov. 27, 1956. Her popularity no doubt contributed to the 1955 establishment of an African safari by dedicated zoo staff and enthusiastic supporters, adding two hippopotamuses, two rhinoceros, three giraffes, a variety of smaller animals, and three additional elephants joining Frieda.