The San Francisco Zoo connects people with wildlife, inspires caring for nature and advances conservation action.
The earliest "zoo" in San Francisco dates back to the Gold Rush days in 1856. It was located in a basement at Clay and Leidesdorff Streets. The "zoo" consisted of grizzly bears captured by the famed hunter, James Capen "Grizzly" Adams. As San Francisco evolved, so did the idea of a zoo. Robert B. Woodward, one of San Francisco’s wealthiest men, owed his fortune to the Gold Rush and silver mining. He opened Woodward’s Gardens in 1866 in the Mission District at Valencia and 15th Streets as a four-acre amusement park complete with menagerie. His animal collection included a sea lion pond, bear grottos, black swans, deer and an aviary. The garden closed in 1890 when the city allowed the property to be divided into building lots.
The San Francisco Zoo that we know it today was established in 1929, and was built in the 1930’s and 1940’s as part of a depression-era Works Progress Administration (WPA) project.
The Zoo was originally called The Herbert Fleishhacker Zoo, after its founder. The official name of the Zoo – The San Francisco Zoological Gardens – was adopted February 27, 1941, following the suggestion of Herbert Fleishhacker.