Through The Years
In The Beginning
The land that is now Audubon Park was once a large sugar plantation owned by Etienne de Bore, the first mayor of New Orleans. In 1871, the property was sold to the city for use as "Upper City Park" and a site for a new state capitol. In 1884, it became the site for the World's Industrial & Cotton Centennial Exposition. The Exposition's Horticultural Hall boasted an early "zoo"— an exhibit of plants, monkeys, deer, songbirds and macaws.A Park is Created
In 1886, the park was renamed Audubon Park, in honor of the famous naturalist and artist who did many of his watercolors in Louisiana. Frederick Law Olmsted, the famed designer of New York's Central Park, was asked to develop a master plan. After obtaining funds from the legislature, John Charles Olmsted sketched a plan for the park in 1897, which the Park Commission accepted unanimously.By 1900, about one-third of Olsted's original plan had been completed, mainly at the front of the park. By 1917, such accoutrements as the Gumbel Fountain, the Hyams Pool, the Newman Bandstand, and a flight cage had been added.With the onset of the Great Depression, donations for private building were scarce. A much-needed cash infusion was provided by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to build a new
zoo. In combination with a $50,000 donation from Valentine Merz family, these funds allowed the zoo to move to its present site.From Animal Ghetto to Urban
Money for maintenance of the zoo was inadequate, and by the 1950's the zoo had declined badly. Government officials advised the city to either 'clean up or close up.' Voters approved a special 1972 referendum which generated nearly $2 million to begin restoring the zoo. With farsighted leadership and overwhelming public support, the animal ghetto was transformed into an 'Urban Eden.' Beginning in the 1970's, new exhibits such as Asian Domain, African Savanna, Louisiana Swamp and Jaguar Jungle were added. The zoo's rebirth firmly anchored Audubon among the nation's top-rated zoological parks and inspired support for future developments that would benefit the city culturally and economically.Beyond the Zoo: New Horizons
Audubon's strong record of success over the years led to the evolution of Audubon Nature Institute, an umbrella organization that now operates a family of museums and parks dedicated to nature. With the boundless imagination of Audubon Nature Institute, and the continued support of a community that has been our greatest partner in success, the Audubon legacy will continue to grow as a force for nature. As the story continues, we invite you
to help us write the next exciting chapters.