Riverdale Park and Zoo

Off of Broadview Avenue down through the Riverdale East Park and west on the footbridge over the Don Valley, lives the the Riverdale Park and Zoo.  


Riverdale Park, Toronto

Footbridge
Never before have I been there that I can recollect; although my parents tell me I went there as a little girl, I don't remember any of it. The Riverdale Zoo was originally established in 1856 when the City of Toronto had bought 119 acres of land to establish a park and a 'jail farm'.  Ten years later the jail was moved away from the parklands.  I found it rather odd that one should visit a Park and a Jail within the same place.  The Riverdale Park was opened officially about 20 years later. In 1894, the Riverdale Zoo had opened as
Toronto's first zoo.  Its collection of exotic animals included ocelots, camels, a dromedary, monkeys, a Siberian bear, a hippopotamus and some lions.  Donations of money and animals continued and although a typical zoo for its period, the animals were really just displayed in cramped cages and were not allowed to roam freely.  It took many years, but thankfully in 1974, the Riverdale Zoo closed its doors.  A committee was formed to build a major modern styled zoo for the animals to run free in a mock natural habitat.  This proved to be far more beneficial as the people could experience a much broader view of the animals in their natural behaviors.  Glen Rouge was the site for that zoo and still exists today as one of the largest, most beautiful zoos in the world, known as the Metropolitan Toronto Zoo.

Today, the Riverdale Zoo is known as Riverdale Farm and is home to many farm animals and birds like cows, goats, sheeps, pigs, poultry and horses. The Donnybrook and the Island House buildings are the only original structures that remain from the original park.  New additions are the Simpson house which was built as an exact replica of the original.