WINTER HAVEN, Fla. – Cypress Gardens, Florida’s first theme park, has a novel historical past. The Sunshine State’s main tourism business started with a ‘Good Housekeeping’ article.
Again within the Nineteen Thirties, Dick Pope Sr. and his spouse Julie noticed an article a few Charleston banker who opened up his personal property to the general public and charged an admissions price. This synthetic $36,000 in a single yr.
After listening to concerning the banker’s success, Pope determined that he would construct his personal backyard in Winter Haven.
1930’s postcard from Cypress Gardens. Photograph Credit score: Florida Reminiscence
They initially deliberate to rebuild the Winter Haven canals and chain of lakes. Additionally they deliberate so as to add a dangling backyard on Lake Eloise. Finally, they created Cypress Gardens.
Pope was mocked by the press. “Maharaja of Muck” and “Swami of the Swamp” have been his nicknames as a result of his dream backyard was being constructed in the course of a 16-acre marsh. However he didn’t let that cease him from conducting his targets.
Azalea Time in Florida Cypress Gardens. Photograph Credit score: Florida Reminiscence
Julie Pope knew probably the most about all of the natural world that might develop within the backyard due to her Brewton, Alabama roots.
The picturesque theme park’s success proved the press incorrect. By January 2, 1936, Cypress Gardens opened. The backyard included 8,000 completely different flowers from over 90 completely different nations.
Flowery walks and waterways at Cypress Gardens. Photograph Credit score: Florida Reminiscence
Due to the gardens’ notable success, Dick Pope was deemed “Mr. Florida” and the “Father of Florida Tourism.”
By the 1940’s the water ski present was bringing in guests. Troopers within the space would come to see the “water present”. Cypress Gardens began being referred to as “the water ski capital of the world.”
The progressive theme park additionally grew to become a sizzling spot for Hollywood. It was the set for a number of motion pictures like On an Island With You and Simple to Love.
After many years of enterprise, Dick Pope handed the backyard all the way down to his son. Dick Jr. offered the theme park to Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, a publishing conglomerate, in 1985, but it surely struggled to compete with the ever-growing theme park scene in Orlando.
The gardens suffered extreme harm from three completely different hurricanes in 2004, delaying the reopening of the rebranded “Cypress Gardens Journey Park,” one of many ultimate makes an attempt to maintain Cypress Gardens alive.
Cypress Gardens formally closed for good in 2009, and the property was purchased by Merlin Leisure.
A part of the previous Cypress Gardens park is preserved at LEGOLAND, in some instances with a Lego twist.
Cypress Gardens, the unique Florida theme park, is now house to LEGOLAND Florida Resort, one of many latest Florida theme parks.
There’re nonetheless some touches of the unique gardens like the nice banyan tree that was planted in 1939 and every day water ski exhibits that embody some LEGO characters. Guests can nonetheless see a few of the historic gardens; admission is included with the acquisition of a LEGOLAND ticket.
The 1939 banyan tree stays.
The Cypress Gardens Water Ski Workforce nonetheless exists and performs on the third Saturday of every month.