- Portland Tribune - News
Every Friday in Stumptown Stumper, the Portland Tribune offers a trivia question and answer to help you boost your Rose City IQ.
Q: What animal became the first in the Oregon Zoo's collection when it began as the Portland Zoo in 1888?
A: The zoo's long and storied past began with an eccentric druggist named Richard B. Knight, who kept exotic animals at his downtown Portland drugstore.
According to the zoo's own written history, the animals - monkeys, parakeets and other birds among them - were 'gifts' he'd received from sailors who had been to far-off places.
Apparently, he paid $75 for a grizzly and $50 for a young brown bear and kept them on a vacant lot at Southwest Morrison Street and Third Avenue, next to his store.
He named them Grace and Brownie and cared for them out of a sense of kinship with the sailors, because he once had been a sailor himself.
But on June 6, 1888, Knight was ready to bid his pets goodbye. He wrote in a letter to the Portland mayor and City Council: 'I have brought to the city and have for sale two bears, one young brown, and a she grizzly, which latter is said to be with cub. They are gentle, easily cared for, and cost but a trifle to keep, and knowing they would prove a great source of attraction to the city park, would like an offer for them before sending them elsewhere.'
Instead of offering to buy the animals, the city gave Knight two circus cages and let him keep the caged bears at City Park, which is now Washington Park. But Knight still was responsible for feeding them.
Five months later, in November 1888, he told the city he'd donate the grizzly, and the city accepted. The Portland Zoo was born. It was renamed the Washington Park Zoo in 1976 and the Oregon Zoo in 1998.
Yet there's still one part of the story that's an unknown: Historians aren't sure what happened to Knight's second bear, Brownie.
Next week's question: How do the tall glass spires atop the Oregon Convention Center get washed?