Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo opens new Tropical House on February 7, 1969.

  • By Alan J. Stein
  • Posted 5/31/1999
  • Essay 1180

On February 7, 1969, Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo opens its new "Tropical House," which houses reptiles, amphibians, and a special nocturnal exhibit. (In the 1990s the the name will be changed to the Day Exhibit, to go along with the Night Exhibit (originally the Nocturnal house).

Origin of the Zoo

In 1880, Nova Scotia native and Lake Union sawmill owner Guy C. Phinney (1851-1893) purchased a tract of land north of Green Lake, including 200 acres that he designed as a personal estate he called Woodland Park. He allowed the public to tour the land, which included its own herd of deer.

After Phinney's death at the young age of 42, his wife, Nellie (Wright) Phinney (d. 1909) could not support the property and in 1900 they sold it to the City of Seattle as a park. In spite of its distance from Seattle, Woodland Park became the city's most heavily used park. At first the animal collection was limited to native animals, but over the years, more species were added, along with specialized enclosures. During the the first 75 years, more than 50 million persons visited the zoo.


Walt Crowley, Rites of Passage: A Memoir of the Sixties in Seattle (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1995), 265; Jack J. Simmons, Official Guide to Woodland Park Zoo (Seattle: Seattle Zooligical Society, 1972); David Hancock, Woodland Park Zooligical Gardens: Seventy-Fifth Anniversary 1904-1979 (Seattle: The Zoo Foundation of Woodland Park, 1979); "The Zoo's First Century, 1899-1999: A (Relatively) Short History of Woodland Park Zoo," ed. by Dana Payne, Woodland Park Zoo Website, (

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