Vosswood Nursing Home resident Annette Reynolds is not an average Houstonian. 94-year-old Reynolds was born in 1920, and her father even read George H. Hermann’s will; if the name sounds familiar it’s because he was responsible for presenting a very famous piece of land to the City of Houston – Hermann Park!
Reynolds remembers visiting the zoo in its early days during the 1920s. For her family, going to the zoo was a Sunday treat.
“The first time I went, that I can recall, would be when I was seven years old in 1927,” Reynolds said. “My mother used to say, ‘Now, we’re gonna get dressed because we’re going to the zoo tomorrow!’ Oh, my brother and I would be so excited. It’s helpful to a city to have a beautiful zoo, and I know many people who visit Houston and they make it a point to visit the zoo.”
Formerly referred to as the Hermann Park Zoo, it was a city-operated zoo and free to all visitors until 1989. The first staff member was a German zookeeper named Hans Nagel, who quickly built up the collection and became the first zoo manager/director.
Conveniently located in Hermann Park, the Houston Zoo brings fond memories for residents who would also hold special events at both the zoo and the park, such as Reynolds.
“As a child, my birthday parties were held in the front part of Hermann Park,” Reynolds said. “I remember my son’s birthdays at the park, and we’d have them at the zoo too. I know that we couldn’t live without Hermann Park.”
The Houston Zoo has come a long way since its early days and has even more ambitious plans for the next decade. None of this would have been possible without an incredible staff, board and volunteers to implement all these changes and renovations.
“Of course, back then it wasn’t nearly the size as it is now,” Reynolds said. “But I saw a lot of improvement at the zoo growing up; it was very small but the zoo has been done up really nicely. The whole appearance of the zoo has improved tremendously, and I think they [the staff] have done wonders with the zoo.”
We think so too, Mrs. Reynolds!
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