The Manito Park Zoo

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The Zoo was part of Manito Park from 1905 to 1932. There were several small animal cages near Rose Hill and the rock gardens, which housed skunk, coyote, bobcat, and other animals. While the zoo was a popular attraction, its upkeep proved challenging.

In 1907, the city hired the Olmsted Brothers, famed landscape architects from Massachusetts, to help the park board plan a system of city parks. The Olmsted's 1913 report recommended the Manito zoo be closed due to insufficient space and high maintenance costs. If the board insisted on keeping the zoo, the report advised keeping only animals native to the area and giving them more space to be healthy and happy. This was in direct conflict with the zoo idea, to display non-native animals that would arouse more interest. At one time the zoo had crow, owl, elk, deer, buffalo, coyote, emu, ostrich, pheasant, fox, raccoon, bobcat, cougar, pigeons, ducks, a golden eagle, and brown, black, polar, and grizzly bears.

Despite attempts to build support for the zoo and increase its popularity (including a 1917 plan to preserve deceased animals and donate them to the city), the park board was unable to justify the labor and expense given the state of the economy after 1929. It closed the zoo for good in 1932.

Spokane did not give up on the idea right away, however. In fact, in the late 1960s the city considered building a zoo in Highbridge Park. The city council consulted concessionaires and collected plans from several designers, but in the end deemed the project impractical. To this day the only zoo near Spokane is Cat Tales Zoo, located north of Spokane in Mead, Washington, which specializes in large cats.

Video Show

Manito Zoo

Images from the glass lantern slide collection of the Spokane Parks and Recreation Department, digital photos from the Tony and Suzanne Bamonte Collection, Spokane, WA

Photos Show

Owl Castle, Manito Zoo

Looking south from Tekoa Street and Loop Drive, one of the more impressive features of the park's zoo was its aviary, known as "Owl Castle."

Image courtesy of the blog, Cousin Sam

Postcard - Bear Pit, Manito Zoo, Spokane, Washington

Postcard courtesy of Northwest Room, Spokane Public Library, Spokane, WA.

Postcard - A Pretty Scene in Manito Park, Spokane, Wash.

Image courtesy of Northwest Room, Spokane Public Library, Spokane, WA.

Bear Pit at Manito

Image from the Spokane Daily Chronicle

Polar Bears and Grizzly Bears at the Manito Zoo (Courtesy Google News Archives).

Manito Park Zoo, 1909 (Courtesy Google News Archives)

Mixing native and non-native species could have disastrous results (Courtesy Google News Archives).

Cite this Page

Tracy L. Rebstock, “The Manito Park Zoo,” Spokane Historical, accessed March 4, 2015, http:/​/​spokanehistorical.​org/​items/​show/​105.​
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