Eventually Woodward’s Gardens popularity began to fade. RB Woodward passed away in 1879, and his heirs did not try to keep things up to the standards of the garden’s founder. In the 1880’s, Golden Gate Park (San Francisco’s newest public park) started pulling even more visitors away. People were also becoming more sophisticated in general and less-easily amused by the “old fashioned” attractions like Woodward’s. During the mid-80’s, attendance waned and there were increasing complaints about the garden’s “odors and horrible noises.” In 1891 Woodward’s Gardens was closed down forever. As happened to many animal attractions back in those days, there were some sad stories about their individual fates. One of the more bizarre endings was how one of the long-time bear attractions, “Old Jim,” was shot by a local German butcher and then served up to the public as an unusual delicacy.

In 1893, there was an auction to sell off much of the remaining items from the buildings. It didn’t get nearly the interest that had been hoped, and Adolph Sutro managed to get the best deals – purchasing several thousand dollar’s worth of “stuffed beasts and birds, relics of the past, curios, bric-a-brac, etc.” He also picked up all of the benches, the pipe organ, and several statues – and brought it all over to his new Sutro Baths, where they were on display for many more years. The Woodward family then split up the land into 39 parcels and auctioned it all off.

Woodward’s Gardens was officially no more.


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