Dr. Harry Milton Wegeforth was born in Baltimore, Maryland, January 7, 1882. In 1906 he graduated with a degree in medicine from the University of Maryland, following which he took post-graduate work at Johns Hopkins University and specialized in surgery.
Wegeforth arrived in San Diego in 1910 and practiced medicine for a while with his brothers. At one time he operated a small hospital in Coronado and had an office in the Granger Building in San Diego. In 1929 he built the San Diego Hospital, a small hospital especially equipped for bone surgery.
He will be best remembered for founding the San Diego Zoo in 1916 after worrying about the fate of animals on display for the Panama-California Exposition in Balboa Park.
In 1915 the Panama-California Exposition scored a smashing success but the doctor squirmed about the makeshift arrangements for a display of live animals. He's reported to have exclaimed to brother Paul, "Wouldn't it be wonderful if we had a zoo." He put a notice in the newspaper, asking for support. Two other doctors and the Stevens brothers offered help. The creation of the San Diego Zoological Society became the first step in forming a zoo many people today regard as the world's finest. In 1936, the zoo's amphitheater, Wegeforth Bowl, was named in honor of Harry Wegeforth, who died in 1941.
Additional HistoryRobert Brandt designed Harry M. Wegeforth Elementary School in 1957. Our school opened in portable buildings on November 8, 1957, with 238 students. Construction on the permanent school began in April of 1958 and was completed on December 2, 1958. The site consisted of 7 classrooms, an assembly cafeteria unit, and an administrative unit. Our site was dedicated on February 9, 1959, with Mrs. Harry Wegeforth and family in attendance.
Harry Wegeforth’s pioneering spirit lives on in the dedicated staff and students of his namesake school. Wegeforth Elementary School’s mission is to prepare students academically, socially and emotionally for the challenges of the future.