Opened in 1912, the original zoo was built alongside one of Griffith Park's many hillsides, within walking distance of the area's historic merry-go-round. Many of the animals were donated by the movie studios and local moguls, who either died or grew tired of their private zoos. As was typical in those days, the animals were kept in cages. More realistic "pit" habitats were eventually created in the 1930s as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project.
Despite the apparent popularity of the Griffith Park Zoo, the animals were not well treated and so a modern, more humane zoo was opened in 1966. The old zoo now serves as a free picnic and hiking spot and is mostly covered in colorful graffiti.