New York City Zoos

The New York Aquarium

Home | Email The Author | What's New

"New York City Zoos" by Joan Scheier

Chimp and Keeper Chimp and Keeper Chimp and Keeper Chimp and Keeper
The Publisher: Arcadia Publishing

The New York Aquarium

" The New York Aquarium is the oldest, continuously operating aquarium in the United States. In 1896 the aquarium had an average of over 2 million visitors a year. The aquarium, now houses over 10,000 live aquatic animals, including a pack of California sea otters, rare African cichlid fishes, some extinct in the wild, and walruses rescued as orphaned pups in Alaska.

The aquarium has a long history of involvement in marine research. The aquariums research continues in cutting-edge areas of science, animal cognition, communication and behavior.

The aquarium has embarked on a path to fulfill a master plan, re-inventing the institution in the midst of a rejuvenation of historic Coney Island. From angel fish to penguins, sea hourse, jellyfish and moray eels-- America's oldest public aquarium continues to push the envelope of the opening in interpreting the aquatic world to visitors of all ages"

Dr. Paul J. Boyle, Director, New York Aquarium

Original Site Of The New York Aquarium

The site of the Aquarium at Battery Park was originally opened as a fort in 1807. It was located at the south end of Manhattan and was once used as a landing site for immigrants entering the United States. In 1823 the land was ceded to the city and used as a place of amusement known as Castle Garden. The aquarium opened in 1896 and closed in 1941 where it was housed at the Bronx Zoo until it reopened at Coney Island in 1957.

Original Site of NY Aquarium

Inside The Aquarium

The Aquarium received over two million visitors a year. The inside was divided into five main tanks with turtles, sea lions, and crocodiles. The walls had smaller aquariums with exotic fish within wrought iron stands.

Inside the Aquarium

New York 1906

This photograph dated 1906 shows a group of fisherman in a wagon marked "New York Aquarium" carrying specimens that would be included in the collection or used as food for the larger fish and marine mammals.

NY 1906

Early 1900's

The drawing made in the early 1900's gives a view from the upper level, showing the crocodile and sea lion enclosures. The exhibit included steps so that the animals could climp to the top to rest above the water allowing visitors a better view. The railing were ornate wrought iron.

Railings 1900's

Small Fish Tanks 1942

Lining the walls were smaller tanks standing in wrought iron stands. The tanks held both salt and fresh water fish. This photograph was taken in 1942 shortly before the aquarium closed at this location.

Small Fish Tanks

Groundbreaking At Coney Island 1954

Groundbreaking for the aquarium at Coney Island took place in October 1954. The new aquarium would be located right off the Atlantic Ocean, steps away from the boardwalk with the would famous roller coaster known as the "Cyclone" in the background.

Coney Island 1954

New York Aquarium 1979

In 1979, the aquarium had three pools for harbor seals, fur seals and sea lions. Barking was a familiar sound along the boardwalk at Coney Island. This area was renovated in the 1990's to make way for a new exhibit Sea Cliffs, which had underwater viewing panels.

Aquarium 1979

Electric Eel

The electric eel exhibit was the most popular of the exhibits and it drew a large number of school children who visited the aquarium. There was an electric meter at the side of the exhibit that would measure the electrical currents of the eels that could measure up to 600 volts.

Electric Eel

Breezy The Sea Lion

Here is Breezy, a sea lion with her trainer at the aquarium. Breezy now resides at the Central Park Zoo, in a smaller pool with rocks, a waterfall and a beach. She is under the watchful eye of the same keeper from the aquarium. (see Central Park Zoo chapter)

Breezy The Sea Lion

Beluga Whale

Underwater viewing windows give the visitors a close look at the Beluga whale and many other forms of marine life.

Beluga Whale

The Boardwalk At Coney Island

The boardwalk at Coney Island is a colorful area of New York City. This colorful mosaic located along the boardwalk depicts the many forms of marine life that can be found in the aquarium.

Coney Island Boardwalk

You may order The Central Park Zoo Book and The New York City Zoos and Aquarium book at:

Amazon Barnes and Noble

Joan is available for book talks with slides, for both the Central Park Zoo and The New York City Zoos and Aquarium books. Please contact her through e-mail or