Bear Dens, circa 1935

It’s hard to believe that Washington Park once housed several bears. Here was see the bear pit that was located where the Japanese Garden is today. This photograph was taken circa 1935.

Bear Dens City Park (Washington Park), circa 1935 : A2004-002.857

Bear Dens City Park (Washington Park), circa 1935 : A2004-002.857

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20 thoughts on “Bear Dens, circa 1935

  1. I can remember when the zoo was in Washington Park. The pens looked like jail cells & it seems like you could almost touch the animals. I was only about 5 but I remember it well.

  2. Completely OT, but to the new PARC webmasters, there seems to be a flood of spam comments, particularly over the last few days on the Broadway Building, 1914 post.

    I know it’s hard to keep up with sometime, but I wonder if someone might keep an eye out for that kind of stuff and delete it. It really detracts from the experience, especially when trying to check the most recent comments on the side-bar to see if anything interesting has been added to older posts and 3/4 of them turn out to be spam. A spam flag might be useful as well.

    But otherwise, keep up the great posts — Thanks!

  3. Just occurred to me, regarding my previous post, that perhaps you have been doing such a great job of it that I hadn’t noticed much until the holiday weekend when of course everyone was off. If so, disregard my complaining and thanks again! 🙂

  4. With regard to bear pits, and the issue of zoos- recounting our history with all its warts only makes us reflect how far we have come and how far we can keep going. Good posting PARC!

  5. Thank you for removing the ‘like,dislike’ option for comments, that was a superfluous feature.

    And thank you Portland for getting rid of these bear dens, although as someone who has visited many developing countries and some of their ‘zoos’ I have to admit that the animals in this photo are living in relatively luxurious conditions

  6. Apparently I imagined that the feature had been disabled. I will go ahead and give my previous comment a thumbs down.

  7. One can learn anything he wants to know about how any animal looks, walks, eats etc, I see no reason for
    a zoo.

  8. Actually, I think this was across the street, to the south, from what is now the Japanese Garden. To the west, on the north side of the road, was the cage for the polar bear. He had a large pool and he would wait until a crowd was pushing against the cage. Then he would do a belly flop into the pool, getting everyone wet. I loved it!

    From my Android phone on T-Mobile. The first nationwide 4G network.

  9. Does anybody know where this “bear pit” (wow) was located? Was this within the fences of the current Japanese Garden, or for instance, where the tennis courts currently reside across the street? Does a map of this old zoo still exist? I also want to thank admin for removing the voting option.

  10. The bear pit was actually located in the reservoir before it was built, not the Japanese gardens

  11. According to this article in Wikipedia,,_Oregon)
    The zoo was located on the site of the reservoirs from 1887 to 1925, at which point it relocated to the site of the present day Japanese Garden. Maybe the bear pit was in a couple different locations?
    This link,
    Shows another picture of the “bear pit”, and this one looks like it could definitely be one of the future washington park reservoirs.

  12. Thanks for the history of the zoo. I remember when Packy was born Jack Marks fainted. It was big news because it had been so long since an elephant in captivity had been born. Marks was even on “What’s My Line”.
    My feelings about zoos have definitely changed since I was a kid. I really think they’re a bad idea. Animals have a right to live the life they were born to live.

  13. My source is the book ‘Portland’s Washington Park A Pictorial History’ – Donald R. Nelson

  14. Thanks! So i wonder if this old zoo also included the Rose Garden. Here’s something cool i found: Google street view actually lets you go through the Japanese Garden! I wonder if any of these features were the same in the old zoo?

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