The bear den in City Park (now Washington Park), circa 1935, Wesley Andrews, OrHi 017629.

Takoda is one of four American black bears that live in Black Bear Ridge at the Oregon Zoo. The habitat mimics the bear’s natural environment with steep slopes, towering Douglas Fir trees, and two bobcats. Photo courtesy of Oregon Zoo.


n 1882, Englishman Richard Knight opened a pharmacy near the docks along the Willamette River that became known as a willing repository for animals that sailors brought home from their travels. When his menagerie came to include two bears that became too much to manage, Knight offered to sell the bears to the city of Portland to attract visitors to City Park (now Washington Park). City officials offered him, instead, two circus cages on the park grounds near one of the Zoo’s current entrances at NW 24th Place and W Burnside with the caveat that he continued to feed and care for the bears. Five months into this arrangement, Knight donated one bear to the city outright, and the Portland Zoo (now Oregon Zoo) was born. The fate of the other bear is unknown. In the 131 years since, the facility has expanded to 64 acres and is home to over 2,500 animals representing more than 215 species, including those that are endangered and threatened. The Zoo stands among our city’s most-loved institutions, with voters supporting the Zoo’s animal welfare, education, and sustainability programs many times over the years and attendance topping 1.7 million visits for the fiscal year ending June 2018.


Historic photographs for this series are provided by the Oregon Historical Society, a museum, research library, archive, and scholarly asset located in the heart of Portland’s Cultural District. View more photos of historic Portland on the new OHS Digital Collections website here.

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