The historic Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven, FL, is saying so long to all of it’s amusement park rides. The zoo animals also will be removed as the park owners cite operating and maintenance costs and the inability to compete with nearby Disney World and other parks. The owners are assuring loyal fans of the park, considered Florida’s oldest theme park opening in 1936, that the park will re-open in the spring, that the gardens and waterski shows will remain, and the zoo and rides will be replaced with a new water park.
While the park is closed for renovations we thought you might enjoy a brief look at some of the history of the park, which now includes the rides as, courtesy of Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America Cypress Gardens.
BOOK REVIEW: Images of America - Cypress Gardens
By Mary M. Flekke, Sarah E. MacDonald,
and Randall M. MacDonald
Florida’s first theme park, Cypress Gardens, was the brainchild of Richard Downing “Dick” Pope, Sr. With his wife, Julie Downing Pope, he transformed a marshy, lakeside property in Winter Haven, FL, into a magnificent garden. The park’s first visitors in 1936 toured pathways surrounded by lush plants from around the world. Two years later, electric boats meandered through the park’s winding, hand-dug canals. Water ski shows commenced in 1942, and the park became the “Water Ski Capital of the World.”
The Florida-shaped Esther Williams Swimming Pool still graces the shore of Lake Eloise. The park was a set for dozens of short and feature films, a stage for beauty pageants, and a site for special television broadcasts. A butterfly garden, zoo, rides, and the small-town Southern Crossroads shopping and dining area have been part of the park through the years. Kent Buescher purchased Cypress Gardens in 2004, and today’s expanded Cypress Gardens Adventure Park preserves the family-friendly appeal of Dick and Julie Pope’s magnificent park.”
Authors Mary M. Flekke, Sarah E. MacDonald, and Randall M. MacDonald are long-time Cypress Gardens visitors. Drawn from the park’s archives, the authors’ collections, and area libraries, these images trace the development and life of Florida’s iconic roadside attraction and celebrate those who make Cypress Gardens memorable.
Images of America - Cypress Gardens can be purchased at local and national bookstores or can be purchased at www.arcadiapublishing.com.