JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Before the days of Disney World, Universal Studios, Legoland and Busch Gardens, Jacksonville was the epicenter of Florida's late 19th and early 20th-century tourist attractions. Here are six long-lost attractions in the Jacksonville area that you've probably never heard of.
The short-lived Dixieland Park opened on March 9, 1907, in a city still recovering from financial and emotional scars of the Great Fire of 1901. Dixieland Park billed itself as "Jacksonville's greatest resort" and "Florida's playground." Its advertisements promoted the finest merry-go-round outside of Coney Island, the best roller coaster south of New York, "more free attractions than any other park in the South" and a Dixieland band "which is the finest in the South."
The 21-acre park featured a 160-foot bamboo slide called the "Dixie Dewdrop." It had gardens, a theatre, a dance pavilion, a silent movie studio where legendary western star Tom Mix made films and "polite Vaudeville" which charged 25 cents and 50 cents for matinees and 25 cents, 50 cents and 75 cents for evening performances.
The park had animal shows, daredevil attractions and exhibitions with motor-propelled balloons and aerial rides. It even had baby incubators, the first ever in Florida. Premature infants from surrounding areas were brought to the park for public viewing and care by trained medical personnel. The park charged a 10 cent admission fee.
The park's novelty started to wear off, and Dixieland Park gradually faded away. For all practical purposes, Dixieland Park was gone when the United States entered World War I in 1917. Now, all that's left of the venue which called itself "The Coney Island of the South" is the Treaty Oak on the Southbank. The majestic tree was once part of Dixieland Park.
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