Beardsley Zoo

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Beardsley Zoo
The carousel at the zoo
Date opened 1922[1]
Location Bridgeport, Connecticut, United States
Coordinates 41°12′37″N 73°10′53″W / 41.2103°N 73.1815°W / 41.2103; -73.1815 (Beardsley Zoo)Coordinates: 41°12′37″N 73°10′53″W / 41.2103°N 73.1815°W / 41.2103; -73.1815 (Beardsley Zoo)
Number of animals 305[2]
Number of species 110[2]
Annual visitors 250,000[2]
Memberships AZA[3]

The Beardsley Zoo, located in Bridgeport, Connecticut, is the only zoo in the state of Connecticut. It includes one of the few carousels in the state.


Beardsley Park
Beardsley Zoo is located in Connecticut
Beardsley Zoo
Location 1875 Noble Ave., Bridgeport, Connecticut
Coordinates 41°12′45″N 73°10′56″W / 41.21250°N 73.18222°W / 41.21250; -73.18222
Area 181 acres (73 ha)
Architect Olmsted, Fredrick Law; Northrup, Joseph W.
Architectural style Queen Anne, Modern Movement
NRHP Reference # 98000357[4]
Added to NRHP March 18, 1999

The park[edit]

In 1878, James W. Beardsley, a wealthy farmer, donated over 100 acres (40 ha) of hilly, rural land bordering on the Pequonnock River with a distant view of Long Island Sound to the city of Bridgeport, on the condition that "the city shall accept and keep the same forever as a public park" In 1881, the city contracted Frederick Law Olmsted, famous for creating New York City's Central Park, to create a design for Beardsley Park.[5] Olmsted described the existing land as "pastoral, sylvan and idyllic" and, in 1884, delivered his plan for a simple, rural park for the residents to enjoy: "[The land donated by Beardsley] is thoroughly rural and just such a countryside as a family of good taste and healthy nature would resort to, if seeking a few hours' complete relief from scenes associated with the wear and tear of ordinary town life... It is a better picnic ground than any possessed by the city of New York, after spending twenty million on parks... The object of any public outlay upon it should be to develop and bring out these distinctive local advantages, and make them available to extensive use in the future by large numbers of people."[6]

Fredrick Law Olmsted was the principal architect of the site. Architect Joseph W. Northrup designed Island Bridge, a bridge to an island in the park. In 1909, the city erected a statue created by Charles Henry Niehaus in honor of Beardsley at the park’s Noble Avenue entrance.[5][7][8] Beardsley Park was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.[4][9]:6

Barnum's elephant plowing, with onlookers, 1855

The zoo[edit]

The city of Bridgeport was also home to Phineas T. Barnum and his world famous circus. At the time of the park's creation, Barnum exercised his animals through the streets of Bridgeport, and people gathered in Beardsley Park to see zebras and camels walking by.[1]

In 1920, Bridgeport Parks Commissioner Wesley Hayes began a campaign to create a city zoo within the park. He requested that the citizens of Bridgeport contribute animals to start the zoo. In the first year there were eighteen exotic birds donated. As of 1927, the zoo had acquired a variety of exotic animals, including a camel donated by the Barnum and Bailey Circus.[1]

In 1997, the Connecticut Zoological Society, a nonprofit support group for the zoo, purchased the zoo from the city. The society continues to run the zoo as a private, nonprofit institution with assistance from the state of Connecticut and the city of Bridgeport.[1]

In 2007, Beardsley Zoo became the first zoo in the Northeast to exhibit the Chacoan peccary. In October 2011, it became the first zoo in the Northeast to have a baby Chacoan peccary.[10]

In January 2010, the oldest Andean condor in the world, Thaao, died here.[11]

On January 22, 2011, working with the Cincinnati Zoo's C.R.E.W., an endangered Brazilian ocelot kitten was born to oviductal artificial insemination, marking the first time that this kind of artificial insemination had successfully worked in an exotic wildcat.[12]

In 2012, Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo celebrated its 90th anniversary. The zoo celebrated its birthday with guest promotions[13] and a temporary giant tortoise summer exhibit,.[14]


The greenhouse is visible from the zoo's entrance.
An Amur tiger at Beardsley Zoo

The Beardsley Zoo is divided into five sections:

  1. South American Rainforest - includes a boa constrictor, poison dart frogs, scarlet ibis, Yacare caimans, an ocelot, white-faced saki monkeys, black howlers, pygmy marmosets, golden lion tamarins, agoutis, Orinoco geese, and common vampire bats.
  2. Predators - contains an Amur leopard, Canada lynx, and Amur tigers.
  3. Alligator Alley - holds a wide variety of water birds, American alligators, gray foxes, North American river otters, sandhill cranes, a white-tailed deer, and bald eagles.
  4. Hoofstock - features Andean condors, Mexican wolves, red wolves, maned wolves, peccaries, black-tailed prairie dogs, bison, pronghorns, a llama, a turkey vulture, and a barred owl.
  5. New England Farmyard - contains a collection of domestic breeds and wild animals that might be found in rural Connecticut, such as guinea hogs, Dexter cattle, a black swan, pheasants, ducks, geese, a common raven, a snowy owl, Cotswold sheep, San Clemente goats, Nubian goats, Narragansett turkeys, poultry, and greater rheas. There is also a Bug House and a Reptile and Amphibian House.

A new exhibit was scheduled to open in 2014 called Pampas Plains. This will be the second of four phases of a South American Adventure exhibit (the first phase being South American Rainforest, and the third being the Andes Mountains). It will have giant anteaters, maned wolves, Chacoan peccaries, and greater rheas.[15] South American Adventure will also bring a new species to the zoo, tapirs. It will also bring back spider monkeys and Andean bears.[16]

The zoo also has a carousel and one of the largest greenhouses in Connecticut. At the entrance to the zoo, a pair of brick buildings that once served as trolley barns for the city of Bridgeport now hold administrative offices.[17]

Community engagement[edit]

The zoo has a youth program designed to engage teens in promoting conservation.[18][19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Robin DeMattia (June 8, 1997). "New Owners for the State's Only Zoo". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-07-07. 
  2. ^ a b c Annual Report 2006
  3. ^ "List of Accredited Zoos and Aquariums". AZA. Retrieved 24 September 2010. 
  4. ^ a b Staff (2009-03-13). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  5. ^ a b George Curtis Waldo (1917). History of Bridgeport and vicinity, Volume 1. S. J. Clarke. p. 280. ISBN 978-1-144-35927-8. This is one of the beauty places of the city, located on the river and combining hundreds of shade trees with a rustic beauty unsurpassed. 
  6. ^ F.L. & J.C. Olmsted (1884). Beardsley Park: Landscape Architects' Preliminary Report. Privately Printed (Boston). pp. 6–7. 
  7. ^ "James W. Beardsley Statue, Bridgeport". CT Retrieved 2010-07-07. 
  8. ^ "James W. Beardsley, (sculpture)". Smithsonian American Art Museum. Retrieved 2010-08-07. 
  9. ^ David F. Ransom (July 1997). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Beardsley Park" (PDF). National Park Service.  and Accompanying 17 photos from 1994 and 1997 (captions pages 17-18 of text document)
  10. ^ "Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo Announces Rare Peccary Birth, Welcomes New Animals and Says Goodbye to Condors... for Now". Beardsley Zoo. November 11, 2011. Retrieved August 29, 2012. 
  11. ^ "Zoo Family Mourns Death of Oldest Living Andean Condor in Captivity". Beardsley Zoo. January 26, 2010. Retrieved August 29, 2012. 
  12. ^ "Public Invited to Meet Endangered Brazilian Ocelot Kitten Beginning April 16". Beardsley Zoo. April 12, 2011. Retrieved August 29, 2012. 
  13. ^ "Zoo Celebrates 90th Birthday with '90 Days of Summer' Fun". Retrieved January 10, 2013. 
  14. ^ "Giant Tortoises to Summer at Connecticut's Only Zoo". Retrieved January 10, 2013. 
  15. ^ "Diageo Donates $30K & 800 Volunteer Hours to Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo". Retrieved 2013-07-10. 
  16. ^ Dixon, Ken. "Endangered Andean Bear to Find Home at Beardsley Zoo". 
  17. ^ "Zoo map" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-12-26. 
  18. ^ Kaufman, Caryn. "Beardsley Zoo nets $78K grant". Bridgeport Banner. Retrieved July 10, 2012. 
  19. ^ "Youth Volunteer Opportunities". Beardsley Zoo. Retrieved July 10, 2012. 

External links[edit]