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Historical Tidbit by Sean2011-11-09 20:50:42

Sean

--Guest--

As many of you already know, the current Fun Town Pizza & Pasta Buffet used to be Aunt Julie's Country Kitchen while Kent owned the park. Before that, it was called the Crossroads Restaurant. If this restaurant has a homey look to it, that's because it actually was a home! Believe it or not, this was once Julie Pope Dantzler's (Granddaughter of Dick Pope Sr.) childhood home.

While visiting the Crossroads Restaurant back in the 1990s, she said, “this is really weird, this used to be my back yard." Walking into the restaurant while visitors ordered lunch, she said, “This was the dining room, I can remember sitting in the middle of the floor here and playing spin the bottle.”

Not too many people out there that can claim that a theme park restaurant was once home.
 
re: Historical Tidbit by Greg2011-11-09 20:57:58

Greg
Winter Haven, Florida

Master Botanist
1451 Posts
Yeah, that's pretty cool... I bet it's a lot different when she lived there though! BTW, here's what it looks like now:



I learned something interesting today (nothing related to Legoland or CG though.) Where I work we have a couple of houses that have been converted into offices. The lady who has been working for us the past couple of years ago told me that the "White" house was her childhood home back in the early 1970s! I was blown away by that!
 
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I am Legoland Florida's most zealous advocate!
 
re: Historical Tidbit by Ed2011-11-10 12:25:02

Ed
Merritt Island

Ski Star V
956 Posts
That is a bigger line then I ever saw outside the Country Kitchen or the Crossroads restaurant. Appears Merlin does know what they are doing.
 
re: Historical Tidbit by Sean2011-11-18 20:20:26

Sean

--Guest--
Someone was asking about the history of the Magnolia Mansion. Here's a brief rundown for anyone who is interested:

In the 1940s, John Snively (a pioneer in the citrus industry) built a New Orleans style home on Lake Eloise. According to John "Jack" Snively IV, the great-great-grandson of John Snively, the property once had many more buildings that have long since been torn down. They included a wash house, an Olympic-size swimming pool, a guest house, quarters for the household staff and horse stables.

The exterior of the home was originally red brick. When the Dick Pope Sr. family expanded Cypress Gardens and purchased the Snively home and property in the 1970s, huge columns and a white facade were added to create a Georgian mansion that resembled the "Tara" home from the 1939 movie "Gone With the Wind.”. Pope said the pillars proved the most difficult task in the restoration of the mansion. Nearly a year of searching took place before a company was located that had been making authentic columns since the 1870s.

In 1976, the Magnolia Mansion (then called the Southern Mansion) housed memorabilia for the Florida Sports Hall of Fame. In 1986, after HBJ brough Cypress Gardens, a sinkhole opened under the biggest restaurant in the park, forcing park officials to look for restaurant facilites elsewhere in the park. As a result, Cypress Gardens officials decided to use the Southern Mansion and had the Hall of Fame moved elsewhere.

When Anheuser Busch Co.owned the park from 1989 to 1995, they added a collection of displays and memorabilia to the mansion that talked about various A-B companies. They also added a bar (known as the Hospitality Center) where guests could sample free Anheuser-Busch products. After Busch sold the park, the Southern Mansion was later used to house an extensive Gone With the Wind memorabilia collection until the park closed in 2003.
 
re: Historical Tidbit by Sean2012-01-02 20:31:56

Sean

--Guest--
Found the following information at site called "Radio Years: Central Florida's Great Radio Stations of the Past." Seems the park had a rich history in radio in addition to the "When Radios Were Radios" exhibit:

WGTO-AM 540 Haines City – In September 1955, WGTO signed on the air from studios in the Palm Crest Hotel in Haines City. In 1958, Dick Pope offered to build new studios for WGTO at Cypress Gardens and lease it to Hubbard Broadcasting for $1.00 a year, including all maintenance, in return for free advertising on the radio station. A deal was struck and WGTO moved to Cypress Gardens in 1958. Here's what the radio station looked like:

After 22 years playing pop music, a milestone was reached on January 29, 1977 when WGTO flipped to country, heralding an awakening of central Florida’s 50,000 watt “sleeping giant.” Ten years later, the greatest period of popularity in WGTO’s history came to an end when, in late 1986, Hubbard Broadcasting sold the station for $1.5 million to Cypress Broadcast Ltd. who switched from Country to Gospel. And yet another owner-group bought WGTO in 1990, moved the studios from Cypress Gardens to near Orlando, and switched the music format to Oldies.

Following the move to Orlando, the empty building that was once the station’s offices and studios near the entrance to Cypress Gardens was used as a storage facility until 1997 when it was remodeled to house the Central Florida Visitors and Convention Bureau. Today (2006), the building is used as an emergency medical center for guests at Cypress Gardens:
 
re: Historical Tidbit by Greg2012-01-02 23:00:07

Greg
Winter Haven, Florida

Master Botanist
1451 Posts
Interesting. Looks like they cut part of the original building off too.
 
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I am Legoland Florida's most zealous advocate!
 
re: Historical Tidbit by Sean2012-01-03 17:37:22

Sean

--Guest--
I don't think they cut off a portion of the building. I think the two windows they removed to install the new double doors gives the illusion that the building was shortened.

According to former WGTO chief engineer Frank Berry, the image below shows the tower that held the STL (studio transmitter link) antenna which transmitted the studio signal to the transmitter site. I wonder if the radio tower that can sometimes be seen behind the gazebo area is a tower that was once used by WGTO? I wish it weren't there since it sometimes spoils the view. Greg even mentioned that point in the caption for the gazebo shot!

 
re: Historical Tidbit by Greg2012-01-03 22:15:20

Greg
Winter Haven, Florida

Master Botanist
1451 Posts
I don't think the towers you show are the same. The tower from the first shot would have been by the old radio station. The one in the second shot is the one over by Splash Island wave pool, I think it's a cellphone tower. Check this photo out:



The old radio station is there next to the yellow and white tent near the water park entrance while the obtrusive cell phone tower is a bit north of that.

Good grief, I hope they do something with that tower. It dominates so many of my old Splash Island shots, I bet it will do the same for the Legoland Water Park!
 
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I am Legoland Florida's most zealous advocate!
 
re: Historical Tidbit by Sean2012-01-04 18:26:16

Sean

--Guest--
Yeah, I knew they weren't the same towers. The old tower was indeed located adjacent to the old radio station:

I was wondering if the old tower was removed and a more modern one constructed for the radio station during its 32 year stay at the gardens. If it was never used by the radio station, I don't know why the gardens would allow a new tower to be built on gardens property to spoil the view. I guess money trumped scenic preservation in this instance.
 
re: Historical Tidbit by Sean2012-01-10 17:42:26

Sean

--Guest--
I was looking at this 1960s aerial image of CG and noticed there wasn't a tower visible next to the old radio station. You can see the parking lot was expanded just across from the radio station where the Flying School coaster presently resides. Also note that the gazebo hadn't been built yet.

I think Dick Pope had a new tower built away from the parking area so guests arriving at the gardens wouldn't have a giant tower detracting from the initial view. Now that's something for guests at the water park to contend with!
 
re: Historical Tidbit by Greg2012-04-01 23:43:10

Greg
Winter Haven, Florida

Master Botanist
1451 Posts
Quote:
The exterior of the home was originally red brick. When the Dick Pope Sr. family expanded Cypress Gardens and purchased the Snively home and property in the 1970s, huge columns and a white facade were added to create a Georgian mansion that resembled the "Tara" home from the 1939 movie "Gone With the Wind.”

Was looking at one of my more recent shots of the mansion here:



Compare it with Tara from GWTW:



Naturally I think Snivley Mansion looks better, but the resemblance is striking!
 
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I am Legoland Florida's most zealous advocate!
 
re: Historical Tidbit by Sean2012-04-04 17:21:11

Sean

--Guest--
There's definitely a resemblance. All the house needs is a Southern Belle to complete the picture.
 
re: Historical Tidbit by Ed2012-04-06 14:32:10

Ed
Merritt Island

Ski Star V
956 Posts
When Snivley Mansion use to be the Gone With the Wind museum there was some purpose in having it look like Tara. Now that it is in LL - kind of out of place. Don't recall Legos having a Gone With the Wind theme Lego set or series. Maybe they should have turned it into the all you can eat pizza buffet location and they would have had enough room for seating on busy days! Snivley Pizza Mansion? Tara Pizza?
 
re: Historical Tidbit by Sean2012-04-16 00:04:36

Sean

--Guest--
I noticed the new directional signs in the gardens erroneously refer to the waterfall as a fountain. This watefall was constructed in the early 1960s and was once billed as a South Sea Waterfall. Over 200 tons of rock were moved more than 100 miles to create the waterfall. Here are some images I stumbled across:

Interesting publicity shot:


Belles posing with waterfall (note the information sign next to belle)


Close up of information sign:
 
re: Historical Tidbit by Sean2012-05-08 18:26:34

Sean

--Guest--
Some of you old timers may remember seeing this floral clock when you went on the electric boat ride in the 1980s. It was located along the sloping canal bank, just past where the old garden entry bridge used to stand. The clock was assembled in England and presented by Dick Pope Sr. to his wife in honor of their 50th wedding anniversary in 1976:


In the early 1990s, the floral clock was moved to make room for a new garden entry bridge and access paths. The clock was eventually moved to a hillside just past the big waterfall:


I have no idea what happened to the clock after the park closed in 2003. Too bad it isn't around since it would have made a nice display.
 
re: Historical Tidbit by Ed2012-05-09 13:37:35

Ed
Merritt Island

Ski Star V
956 Posts
As with many things from topiaries to butterflies, the clock was just too expensive to move/rejunvenate/maintain or LL didn't like it and out it went.
 
re: Historical Tidbit by Sean2012-06-04 18:31:07

Sean

--Guest--
While walking through the gardens you may notice a few paths that branch off the main path and dead end. These are remnants of alternate paths that used to exist. One of the biggest changes in the pathways occured while Busch owned the park. Here's a map from a brochure showing how the gardens looked in 1989 before Busch bought the park:


Here's how the gardens looked in 1993:


You can see Busch had removed several bridges and redirected many of the garden pathways. I'm not sure why this was done. My guess is that many of the bridges needed major repairs and it was cheaper to remove them than to build new ones. Anyway, the gardens' pathways have remained virtually unchanged since this time (other than a few of them fenced off). You can click on the link if you would like to view larger photos or other vintage park brochures.
 
re: Historical Tidbit by Ed2012-06-05 20:15:46

Ed
Merritt Island

Ski Star V
956 Posts
When Bush took over they closed the animal area - they did not demolish the area -just got rid of the animals and removed all paths to it and landscaped to cover any view. After Bush sold CG the animal area was eventually opened again since the concrete structures were already there and was kind of a cheap expansion. Part of the efforts to add more to the park to attract more guests.

Also before Bush most of the historical garden paths were dirt. Bush put down the stamped concrete paths that are still there today. In the course of putting down the concrete paths they eliminated or changed some of the pathways and also got rid of some old bridges that they saw no need to replace. Saved money on concrete and bridges.
 
re: Historical Tidbit by Sean2012-06-06 20:10:01

Sean

--Guest--
When the gardens first opened in 1936, the garden paths were covered with wooden blocks made from cypress trees:


The cypress block pavers were later replaced with concrete pavers as early as 1948. Here's a 1983 photo that shows a garden path with the concrete pavers:


Eventually, the concrete pavers were replaced with the stamped concrete paths that are there today. This was probably done to eliminate grass and weeds from growing between the spaces as was prone with the pavers. To the best of my knowledge, the historic gardens never had any dirt paths.
 
re: Historical Tidbit by Ed2012-06-06 20:27:41

Ed
Merritt Island

Ski Star V
956 Posts
There were dirt and gravel paths after the cypress blocks wore out and before the pavers. Pavers were only on some of the paths and those were in bad shape when replaced with the stamped concrete. Not that it makes a difference but I was actually there and was part of the history.
 
re: Historical Tidbit by Sean2012-06-06 21:39:03

Sean

--Guest--
Based on every photograph I've seen, all the main pathways had concrete pavers by the early 1950s. Perhaps the dirt paths you saw were during the transition phase from the concrete pavers to the stamped concrete. If you have photographs during your visits that show something different, I'd love to see them. As you know, I'm always game for viewing old photos of the gardens.
 
re: Historical Tidbit by Ed2012-06-07 12:47:14

Ed
Merritt Island

Ski Star V
956 Posts
I really don't want to get anymore into the history of what CG garden paths were made of - I and probalby most others are bored and don't care at this point.

I do have pictures of CG when I finally started taking pictures in 1972 until it closed. If I ever get around to scanning them into digital I will post some in the galleries. I do have a lot of different unique photos of CG that I have not seen posted anywhere else.
 
re: Historical Tidbit by Sean2012-06-07 18:10:57

Sean

--Guest--
Sounds like you have quite a collection of historical photos to share. I look forward to viewing them when they become available.
 
re: Historical Tidbit by Sean2012-06-13 19:56:06

Sean

--Guest--


The hotel adjacent to LL has had a financially turbulent history. It opened in March 1967 as the Cypress Gardens Sheraton Inn and reportedly cost over $3 million to construct.

Three months after its opening, it was in court-ordered receivership. A succession of owners, from Texas partnerships to Michigan attorneys, have taken the reins, only to sell or lose the property in foreclosure.

Lee Anderson, son of former owner Norman Anderson, said the hotel suffers because visitors to nearby Cypress Gardens aren’t apt to spend more than a day in the area. “They come over from Orlando, after visiting Disney, and they leave at the end of the day,” Anderson said. “And Cypress Gardens isn’t a strong an attraction as it was before Disney” opened in 1971.

“Cypress Gardens just isn’t enough to support that big building,” said Faith Anderson, Norman’s wife. “They should have built a smaller hotel.”

Tom Saba, recalling the time he found himself as receiver for the troubled property, said the trick was to get a buyer for the hotel. The logical purchasers were the people who operated Cypress Gardens, but they weren’t interested. Finally, Mr. Saba sent word out that he was going to close the hotel down and let the lawns go to weed. The Cypress Gardens operators showed a sudden interest, and eventually the sale was made.

In 1977, Florida Cypress Gardens Inc. purchased the Cypress Garden Sheraton Motor Inn for $700,000 from the First National Bank of Dunedin. But by October 1983, Cypress Gardens sold the hotel to a Dallas partnership called the Centennial Group.

Within two years the partnership, unable to meet mortgage payments, lost the hotel in foreclosure to its source of financing, the Vernon Savings and Loan Association in Vernon, Texas. By 1987 the S&L went out of business itself, another victim of the savings-and-loan crisis. At that point, the FDIC took control of the property.

The FDIC began looking for buyers. Few in the business community found it surprising when none stepped forward, unwilling to pay the $2.5 million price tag FDIC officials first placed on the property.

Finally, in 1991, the FDIC sold the hotel for under $1 million to Admiral’s Inns Ltd. of Wayne, NJ. The bargain-basement price the FDIC settled upon was to stem an estimated $1 million in annual loses it was incurring. In 1993, the Admiral’s Inn became part of the Best Western Franchise and was renamed Best Western Admiral’s Inn.

It will be interesting to see how the hotel fares now that LL is opened. I think it should do better financially since LL is a much bigger draw than CG. I also wouldn't be surpised to one day see LL buying out the property to enlarge the park. Time will tell.
 
re: Historical Tidbit by Coasterjunkie2012-06-14 07:41:05

Coasterjunkie
Orlando, FL

Ace Arcader
243 Posts
I hope it does well especially since LegoLand is eventually going to become a multi-day visit.
 
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Life's a roller coaster, so enjoy it while you can with your hands high in the air.
 
re: Historical Tidbit by Sean2012-07-04 20:08:37

Sean

--Guest--
Here's a link to a map showing how CG looked in the late 1970s. You can also see the route the electric boats took through the canals at that time. My how times have changed!
 
re: Historical Tidbit by Greg2012-07-04 22:19:26

Greg
Winter Haven, Florida

Master Botanist
1451 Posts
Cool... So it looks like the Aquarama pool was where the Twin Chasers and Joker Soaker are now. And the Topiary Gardens were over by the Gazebo at one time. Interesting since that area is all grown up nowadays.
 
--------------------
I am Legoland Florida's most zealous advocate!
 
re: Historical Tidbit by Sean2014-07-14 16:43:05

Sean

--Guest--
Here's a photograph of a postcard that refers to a small cascading water display as the "Rock and Roll Pool". About a month ago the park fixed the pump for this display and it once again has water cascading down it. It's located just to the right of the gardens' entry bridge. I'm glad to see some improvements being made.


Greg mentioned the Aquarama Pool in the above post. There's a youtube video that shows the dive show that took place there in 1985. The pool was originally built for a 1960 television special starring Esther Williams.
 
re: Historical Tidbit by MSAP Fan2015-01-28 16:36:31

MSAP Fan
Norfolk, Virginia

Ace Arcader
234 Posts
Looking at those column on the Mansion, they look very much like the ones on my Grandmothers house in Ga. Both her house and the renovation to the mansion were built in the 70s. The ones on my Grandmothers house are shorter due to the house being single story.
 
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Let's hope that new MSAP can pull off one of the greatest homecomings Panama City Beach ever had! The Starliner shall rise again!
 
re: Historical Tidbit by Sean2015-02-08 18:59:38

Sean

--Guest--
Here's an interesting postcard that shows part of the Dick Pope Jr. home before it was converted into a restaurant: It was adjacent to an area called "Little Bit of Ireland" which was part of the old Gardens of the World display.
 
re: Historical Tidbit by Greg2015-02-15 18:27:13

Greg
Winter Haven, Florida

Master Botanist
1451 Posts
Is this what's left of the Aquarama pool?

 
--------------------
I am Legoland Florida's most zealous advocate!
 
re: Historical Tidbit by Sean2015-02-15 22:33:13

Sean

--Guest--
No, the Aquarama pool was located where the Twin Chasers are currently located. If you click on the map link I provided 5 posts above, you can see where it was located. There's a Youtube video that shows Esther Williams at the pool in 1959:
Pool
 



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