Bronx Zoo and NYB Garden publish vintage postcard library online

Take a look back at old New York.

The Bronx Zoo and the New York Botanical Garden have recently published an online archive with hundreds of vintage postcards depicting images of both sites, collected over the last century.

The archive contains 450 images and dates back as far as 1903, depicting scenes of the two major park institutions through the years up until the 1980s.

The cards were originally intended to be mementos from the parks, but now will serve as records of how the parks and the neighborhood surrounding them have changed over the years.

“These postcards are a gateway to our past and they provide insight into our history,” said Jim Breheny, the director of the Bronx Zoo. “This is a great way for the public to learn more about the evolution of the Bronx Zoo and the Bronx Park.”

The cards offer a look into days gone by, from a 1920 photograph of boating on the Bronx River to a 1959 shot of the Bronx Zoo’s two Komodo dragons, the only “dragon lizards” in the U.S. at the time.

An undated card and a circa 1916 card showcase the Botanical Garden’s two iconic buildings, which had been commissioned by its first director, Nathaniel Lord Britton, in 1897: the Conservatory, consisting of 11 interconnected greenhouses and featuring a 90-foot-high dome; and the Library (then Museum) building, a six-story limestone Beaux-Arts structure, featuring Corinthian pilasters.

Inspired by the late-nineteenth-century urban park movement, Bronx Park was formally created by the City of New York in the late 1880s.

In 1891, the City allotted 250 acres of the current 718-acre park to The New York Botanical Garden. An additional 250 acres were allotted to the Wildlife Conservation Society (then New York Zoological Society) in 1897 for the Bronx Zoo.

Many of the postcards were donated to the WCS Library by Don Lewis, a long-time Bronx Zoo collector.

The project was funded by a 2011 Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO) Digitization Grant.

Scanning, metadata creation, and site design were done by Shayna Marchese, Project Archivist.

“The New York Botanical Garden is delighted to have had the opportunity to work with our neighbor, the Bronx Zoo, to showcase the Mertz Library’s collection of postcards of Bronx Park and the Garden, and make them digitally accessible to countless people for generations to come,” said Susan Fraser, director of the LuEsther T. Mertz Library.

The collection can be found at a webpage run by the Wildlife Conservation Society and the New York Botanical Garden:

Kirsten Sanchez can be reach via e-mail at or by phone at (718) 742-3394