Plaques at the entrance to the Highland Park Zoo. More than 100 years ago, philanthropist Christopher Lyman Magee donated $125,000 for the construction of zoological gardens in Pittsburgh's Highland Park area. On June 14, 1898, the Pittsburgh Zoo opened to the public for the very first time, providing people with a rare glimpse of animals and plants they had never seen before. Fitting zoo paradigms of the time, it was more of an animal menagerie. Through the years, however, the zoo has transformed into a naturalistic habitat and resource for conservation, education and research.