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Wheeling Park

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Wheeling Park was once home to more animals than just the indigenous wildlife. Thomas Hornbrook, the park’s first owner kept a wide variety of exotic animals on the grounds. Though the site exhibited animals no during its stint as an amusement park, after the city of Wheeling acquired the park, the Otto Schenk Memorial Aviary was added in 1928. The zoological cages were constructed shortly thereafter and only ever held monkeys. However, the monkeys were removed by 1973 with the aviary lasting until 2000.

Photo with the Otto Schenk Memorial Aviary visible in the background.

Sky, Water, Plant, Black

Postcard from Wheeling Park depicting the aviary.

Water, Plant, Tree, Building

The monkey cage near the aviary.

Footwear, Tree, Botany, Plant

Zoological cages in the park.

Plant, Plant community, Natural environment, Tree

These days, the only animals one might encounter at Wheeling Park are local fauna such as squirrels and deer, or some family pets. However, this has not always been the case. When Wheeling Park was still owned by Thomas Hornbrook, a variety of exotic animals called the park home. Hornbrook imported leopards, lions, peacocks, and many other species from all over the world. This was one of the many reasons people travelled for miles to visit Hornbrook’s Park. Once Wheeling Park was converted into an amusement park in the late nineteenth century, the animals were removed. 

Otto Schenk, a major moving force in the creation of Wheeling Park as we know it, was intent on returning exotic animals to the area. In 1928, he made a philanthropic donation to the park in the form of an aviary. The building was named the Otto Schenk Memorial Aviary in his honor. In addition to returning peacocks to the park, the aviary also hosted tropical birds and birds of prey. The aviary — or flight cage, as it was often known — was located at the edge of the park lake. Supplementary animal housing for colder months was located behind the white palace, near where the tennis dome is now located. 

Shortly after the aviary was added to Wheeling Park, zoological cages were also added. Some of these were located near the aviary, while others were behind the White Palace. Though likely intended to house a number of animals, the zoological cages were only ever used for monkeys. Ten to twenty primates could be found in Wheeling Park at any given time. The exhibits were extremely accessible — it was not uncommon for park-goers to throw objects at the monkeys, or vice versa. Suffice to say, conditions and care of the primates were sub-par.

No exotic animals remain in Wheeling Park. The monkeys were the first to go as public interest waned and opposition to their poor treatment grew. By 1973, the primates were entirely gone, though the zoological cages remained for several more years. The aviary was not torn down until 2000. A better understanding of bird care prompted Wheeling Park to reexamine its bird care protocols. This evaluation coupled with compounding structural damage to the aviary prompted the demolition of the building. The presence and subsequent absence of exotic animals in Wheeling Park is one of many evolutions that demonstrate the rich history of the site.

History of Wheeling Park, Wheeling Park. Accessed February 15th 2021.

Novotney, Steve. Memories of Monkeys at Wheeling Park, Weelunk. March 10th 2017. Accessed February 15th 2021.

Wheeling Hall of Fame: Otto Schenk, Ohio County Public Library. Accessed February 15th 2021.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

Weelunk. Accessed February 15, 2021.

“Lake at Wheeling Park, Showing Aviary; Wheeling W. Va.” West Virginia & Regional History Center. Accessed February 15, 2021.

Weelunk. Accessed February 15, 2021.

Weelunk. Accessed February 15, 2021.