Opa-locka Zoo (1926 – 1935)

Opa Locka Zoo in 1926

Cover: Opa-locka Zoo in 1926

The Opa-locka Zoo was established by Glenn Curtiss shortly after erecting the Opa-locka Administration Building. He created the first zoo in Dade County in 1926 for the purpose of “displaying animals typical of the Florida wilds, to provide entertainment for visitors and townspeople,” according to Frank S. Fitzgerald-Bush in a book he published in 1976 called ‘A Dream of Araby – Glen Curtiss and the Founding of Opa-locka.’ However, the zoo was likely created to provide a lure for families to the newly formed city to sell real estate. According to an advertisement in the Miami Herald in September of 1926, families could get a free bus ride to the zoo from the Opa-locka sales office on Flagler Street in downtown Miami.

The zoo grounds were located directly behind the administration building in a makeshift set of tents and fenced in exhibits. It would be considered a rather modest petting zoo by today’s standard, but was a one of kind experience for residents of Dade County during the mid-1920s through mid-1930s. A trip to the zoo offered an excuse to travel to what was considered the remote City of Opa-locka for a weekend excursion.

Ad for Opa Locka Zoo on September 1, 1926

Figure 1: Ad for Opa Locka Zoo on September 1, 1926

However, following the Hurricane of 1926 and the subsequent building bust that followed, the zoo had trouble staying financially solvent. By 1935, the zoo was sold and moved to North Miami where it expanded its inventory and entertainment options, with more than 200 exhibits including 3,000 animals and tropical birds, as well as an extensive reptile collection. The venue offered afternoon animal shows including exhibitions of trained monkeys, dogs, ponies, and birds. The zoo was located NW 132nd Street and West Dixie Highway in North Miami and operated from this location until 1951 when the City of North Miami acquired the property of the zoo. The North Miami Public Library now occupies the land where the zoo was once located.

Click Here to Subscribe



  • Book: ‘A Dream of Araby – Glen Curtiss and the Founding of Opa-locka’, Frank S. Fitzgerald-Bush in 1976.
  • Miami Herald: ‘Readers Unearth Earliest Zoo – Opa-locka Zoo’, by Howard Kleinberg on February 2, 1993.


  • Cover: Opa-locka Zoo in 1926. Courtesy of the Miami Herald.
  • Figure 1: Ad for Opa-locka Zoo on September 1, 1926. Courtesy of Miami Herald.