At the edge of Griffith Park next to the i5 is the LA Zoo, a modern establishment housing animals in somewhat reasonably humane conditions (depending on your overall opinion on zoos) but just around the corner the other side of the hill that the LA Zoo now sits upon in the site where the zoo once was and much of the old place is still there to see.
In the middle part of last century, the LA zoo was showing it’s age and opinions around the treatment of animals was changing so a new Zoo was proposed and built and in 1966 the old zoo was left empty. Rather than spend the money to bulldoze the site they left it somewhat as it was and, although over the years some of it has been repurposed, you can still explore old cages and enclosures one inhabited by bears and monkeys.
Today the open lawn is an space with picnic tables and, in the summer, a venue for plays. Around one side are manmade caves and environments where animals once were, further back are rusting cages and remains of buildings whose purpose is not clear.
Disused landscaping where man-made water courses once flowed are now dry, the water that once fed them having been turned off years ago.
It is easy to imagine families in the 1950s walking about marveling at the exotic species on display and the excitement of children who had never seen such things.
It is also easy to put yourself in the place of the animals that resided there and see the world that they might have seen; imagine yourself on the other side to the bars.
In some ways it is a sad place where the memories of people’s past are left to rot and be absorbed by nature, on the other hand it is still a place to reflect on the human impact on other species and how we’ve come to understand that much better in the last few decades.
As trees and other plants take over, the urban world also encroaches. Graffiti expanding over the concrete rocks, photographers and models make use of the unusual landscape. Urban explorers walk the paths and trespass on areas fenced off for their own safety; holes in fences patched and repatched as the curiosity and novelty demands access.
This isn’t my first visit, I already see changes since the last; graffiti being the biggest but also attempts by the authorities to make, once open cages, safe and buildings becoming more beaten by weather and time.
It’s an interesting place to explore and is overlooked by most tourists who come by to enjoy Griffith Park. It’s not a secret place as such and it is open to the public and its paths are still well trodden.
Some of my pictures this trip are a little dark due to failing light and the failure of my fast lens, so apologies for the picture quality