19 things you didn’t know about Atlanta’s past

Zoo Atlanta was founded with animals from a defunct circus

Zoo Atlanta circus
The zoo bought its first elephant, Clio, in 1890.

Photograph courtesy Handbook of the city of Atlanta/Atlanta Chamber of Commerce

In 1889 wealthy lumberman George V. Gress bought a bankrupt circus for its rail cars and wagons. He donated the animals—including a hyena, a jaguar, and a camel—to the city of Atlanta. A hundred acres were reserved to house them in a new zoo at Grant Park. Forty years later the zoo’s population substantially increased when Asa Candler Jr., son of the Coca-Cola magnate, donated his personal menagerie after a baboon got loose and frightened a Druid Hills neighbor.