Oldest Zoo Building in the Country Gets a Face Lift

Posted February 27, 2012

Cincinnati Zoo’s Historic Reptile House Under Renovation

 The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is home to the oldest Zoo building in the country, the Reptile House.  The 137 year old building, which has been home to primates and reptiles, is currently undergoing  major external upgrades to the roof, mortars, windows and vents.  These renovations will maintain the aesthetic appeal of the national historic landmark and will ensure that the building’s foundation is solid enough to keep it running for another century.  (The building will also undergo interior renovations next winter 2013.)

The exterior renovations are scheduled to be complete in May 2012, just in time for the Zoo’s summer season! Among the noticeable changes, the iconic roof will be painted its original color – red.  And the deteriorating mortar around the building will be replaced. Additionally, the vents at the top of the building will all be replaced. The Reptile House will remain open during the renovations to the exterior, but will be closed during the interior renovations during the winter of 2013.

All renovations are being made possible through a matching grant of $408,886 awarded in 2011 from the Department of Interior, National Park Service’s (NPS) Save America’s Treasures (SAT) grant program. SAT grants, made by NPS in collaboration with the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), help preserve our nation’s most significant and endangered cultural and historic treasures  

With the funds, organizations and agencies conserve U.S. cultural and historic treasures considered to be of national significance. The Zoo’s grant was one of 61 awarded nationally and the only one awarded in Ohio for 2011.  Collectively, Save America’s Treasures projects tell our nation’s story and ensure that this priceless legacy is passed on to future generations. 

“These Save America’s Treasures grants will preserve the physical fabric of our history and the rich diversity of America’s story, as told by its artists, scholars, and other notable figures. These awards also honor the hundreds of volunteers, organizations, and communities whose energy and investment are ensuring that this national legacy endures for generations to come,” said First Lady Michelle Obama.

“The Reptile House is one of Cincinnati’s most recognizable and iconic buildings,” said Thane Maynard, Executive Director of the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden. “We take pride in the fact that so many people cherish it for what it is – a historic landmark that needs to be treasured, tended to and maintained.  And that is exactly what this grant allows us to do.” 

The Reptile House is the nation’s oldest Zoo building, built in 1875. The Cincinnati Zoo was declared a national landmark in 1987 due to its unique architecture in the Elephant and Reptile Houses. The Reptile House is home to hundreds of rare reptiles including lizards, snakes, crocodilians and turtles.