Posts Tagged ‘elephants in New York City’

When the circus thrilled at Bellevue Hospital

April 28, 2014

Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus still comes into town every year. (And up until recently, by foot!)

But perhaps no one welcomed clowns, elephants, horses, and the rest of the dazzling show quite like the patients of Bellevue Hospital.


From 1908 to the 1960s, the circus set up in the interior courtyard, where patients could watch the action in wheelchairs or stretchers from Victorian-era balconies.


“It was a picturesque and unusual spectacle, that audience of patients in pink-striped hospital robes or in gray ones, with a nurse here and a doctor there, and crowds of little children—some touched by the great white plague, some little cripples, and some little convalescents,” wrote The New York Times during a 1912 performance.

CircusbellevuecloseupThat year, an audience of 600 witnessed the band, jugglers, acrobats, contortionists, and a “champion roper” who did “marvelous things with a lasso.”

By the 1950s, the audience numbered in the thousands.

In 1952, a Times reporter noted that on the day of that year’s scheduled show, “the marble corridors of the wards echoed with the chatter and rumble of prone-carts, wheelchairs, while nurses and attendants carried physically afflicted children and escorted adult patients to the temporary grandstands.”

CircusbellevueacrobatsBellevue discontinued the tradition in 1967, when the balconies were demolished for the construction of a modernized hospital building.

Ringling Brothers brought the tradition back in 2013, performing at Brooklyn Hospital Center before a show at the Barclays Center.

Three little elephants at the Bronx Zoo

February 11, 2013

Cute, no? Pachyderms were a big hit when the Bronx Zoo (full former name: New York Zoological Park) built their original dome-capped elephant house in 1908.


More than 100 years later, zoo officials decided to follow the Central Park Zoo and Prospect Park Zoo and phase out their elephant exhibit.

The elephants currently lounging around the central Bronx will be the last ones to live in New York City.

The elephants of Lexington Avenue

December 30, 2009

Above the entrance to the W Hotel at 49th and Lexington are four elephant heads—each with a trunk that wraps around a metal flagpole.

Even though they’re grimy and their tusks could use some whitening, they make for a triumphant sight.

Here are more pachyderms in New York City.

The W Hotel went through a bunch of name changes: It used to be the Hotel Montclair, then the Hotel Belmont Plaza—Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin got their start in the Glass Hat club there—and finally the Doral Inn.

When elephants lived in Central Park

January 26, 2009

Meet Hattie and Jewel, a pachyderm pair who made their home in what was known as the elephant enclosure at the Central Park Zoo. 

This 1906 postcard reveals what a huge draw they were—thousands of people visted every week to watch them. But it also shows them with chains attached to their legs, a very sad sight.


Jewel was the moody one, arriving at the zoo in 1878 from the Barnum & Bailey Circus. She tried to kill a keeper, hurling him out of her enclosure with her trunk, according to a The New York Times article.

Hattie was young and plucky. In a story about her death in 1922 (keepers weren’t sure of her age) the Times wrote: 

“She became angry on another occasion at a man who tossed a lighted cigarette against her trunk. The man got away. Years afterward he came back. Hattie squinted at him through her little eyes, filled her trunk with muddy ooze and squirted it all over him.”

Jewel outlived Hattie and died in 1928 at 97. Another Times article reported that after a zoo veterinarian found her paralyzed in her enclosure, he shot her three times in the head, ending her life.