The Rainbow Bridge, circa 1958.  Photo from Wikipedia


Photo provided by Johnny V. Cinchett

The Rainbow Bridge adorned the main entrance to Fairyland at Lowry Park. To us as kids, it meant we were finally at the park and a fun time was not long in coming. The staircase extending backward from the top of the rainbow led to the entrance of Fairyland.  Once inside, in addition to the recreated nursery rhymes and fairy tales, a miniature railroad wound through Fairyland and its fascinating game reserve.  From the open cars, you could see wild animals moving about freely over the park area.  The trip also featured a mock African village complete with thatched houses and tree huts. Fairyland also included an amusement park with games and rides, and a playground.

Fairyland was drawn from the dreams and hopes of childhood.  Peter Pan lived again, as life-sized pixies drifted through trees over a landscaped path winding through the 15 acres of the park.  Live mice helped complete the restoration of the familiar "Hickory Dickory Dock."   One could see the Old Lady living in a shoe that was 20 feet high.  Humpty Dumpty was perched on the castle wall and all the King's men were standing by as he teetered on the edge.  Across the lane was the home of the Little Red Hen and nearby, the Three Men in a Tub--the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker--floating in a sea filled with goldfish. 

Live woolly lambs frolicked in the yard in front of Mary's Little Red Schoolhouse.  Peter Rabbit lived with his family in a stump under toadstools four feet high while Little Miss Muffet watched from her tuffet as a big spider tried to frighten her away.  On the drawbridge to the Castle, Goosey Gander stood guard while Rapunzel leaned out, hoping to be rescued.  Enchanted youngsters could even stand in the mouth of Willie the Whale as they watched the antics of tropical fish.  The efforts of the Three Little Pigs and their huff-puffing nemesis were there.  Melodies of the nursery rhymes and other children's music were heard in all parts of the park through hidden speakers.  Fairyland was widely acclaimed as one of the nation's finest free fantasyland amusement areas. 

This rare 1961 photo, courtesy of John V. Cinchett, author of "Vintage Tampa Signs & Scenes," captured the dedication ceremony for the Lowry Park marquee and zoo expansion on the corner of Sligh Avenue and North Blvd.  Pictured L to R are John F. Cinchett--President Cinchett Neon Sign Co.; Fran Neff--City of Tampa Parks Dept. Director; the Hon. Julian Lane--Mayor of Tampa, and General Sumter L. Lowry.

The Lowry Park sign was the largest neon sign of its type ever constructed in the city of Tampa.  Designed by the Cinchett Neon Sign Co., the sign stood 42 feet tall and was constructed of turquoise porcelain-on-steel panels with white neon letters and stars featuring Art-deco style neon cascades extending down both sides of the marquee.  The sign was actually designed in the form of a memorial cross to honor deceased members of the Lowry family who donated the land to the city of Tampa for construction of the park and zoo.

Cinchett Neon Signs, Inc. was awarded this national recognition by General Electric in honor of the completed sign.


Photo provided by Johnny V. Cinchett

Story from May 16, 1962 newspaper article

Conclusion of article


                             

Postcard image from Delcampe.net

 

   

Original Fairyland at Lowry Park Brochure - Click each to enlarge
Brochure images provided by Johnny V. Cinchett

America's Outstanding FREE Fantasy-Land for all ages
Only a short drive from downtown, Tampa's Fairyland was conceived some years ago by the Honorable Nick C. Nuccio, Mayor of Tampa.

Through Mayor Nuccio's effort, this 15-acres of beautifully wooded area at Lowry Park on the Hillsborough River was transformed into a unique fantasy-land, appealing to all ages.  Admission is free.

In addition to life-size portrayals of fables and fairy tales, there is a free playground with slides, swings and see-saws, a real Navy plane, a fire engine and a zoo with regularly scheduled animal performances.

Plan now to visit Fairyland when you come to Tampa--and bring your camera.

Baby Sheena and her handler greeting children in front of the old lady who lived in a shoe storybook setting.
From the brochure below.

Mouse-over brochure to see other side.
Brochure image from eBay

Only a short distance from downtown, Tampa's Fairyland, conceived by Mayor Nick C. Nuccio, spreads over 15 acres of beautifully wooded area in Lowry Park on the Hillsborough River.  Admission is free.  In addition to life-size portrayals of fables and fairy tales, there is a free playground with slides, swings and see-saws, a real Navy plane, a fire engine and a zoo!  A small charge is made for some of the rides.

Lowry Park, one of the outstanding recreational areas in the county, offers picnic areas with tables, shelters and cookout areas under giant shade trees, plus a softball diamond and many other public facilities.

Plan now to visit Fairyland and Lowry Park, when you come to Tampa -- and bring your camera!  Open seven days a week, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Reverse side:

This is Fairyland...a world set apart, alive with childhood dreams...an enchanted woodland of elves and fables, of nursery rhymes and fairy tales.  Soft shafts of sunlight filtered by moss-draped oaks strike bright colors from flower bordered walkways.  At each turning, a long remembered page of Mother Goose swings open.  The Three Pigs sit secure in their strong brick home...Little Bo Peep searches for her lost sheep...a spider spins his web above a frightened Miss Muffet...Humpty Dumpty sits on a wall...and the Three Men in a Tub sit just beyond a real Wishing Well!  There are many, many more---realistically reproduced in a continuing panorama of myth and imagination.  Captivating!

Sheena, a harmonica playing baby elephant greets some Fairyland visitors.  Behind is the Old Woman who lives in a shoe--it's 20-feet high--but still won't hold all her children!

The mouth of Willie the Whale opens wide.  You walk right in, and there--right in his tummy--is a tank of tropical fish!

The Little Red School House may be the very one to which Mary's little lamb followed her!

A real Mississippi stern-wheeler--The Fairy Queen--chugs its way up and down the scenic Hillsborough River.  Regularly scheduled trips.

A dinosaur towers over golfers while a brooding Buddha watches--in Fantasia, a unique 36-hole putting course adjacent to Fairyland.  Small admission.

 

             
Postcard and brochure made from the same photo session
Fairyland brochure from "The Pie Shops"

Left: The Rainbow Bridge to Fairyland, circa 1957.
A rare, early view of the painted stairs on the bridge.
Photo courtesy of Yvonne Colado Garren, taken by her father, Hector Colado

 

Rick Ringer and his sister at the Rainbow Bridge, circa 1964
Photo courtesy of Rick Ringer


The Rainbow Bridge from the 1962 Jefferson High School yearbook Monticello

 

Sometime from 1962 to 1967, the Rainbow Bridge was repainted, as well as the railings, as can be seen below.


 Keith Hawks at the Rainbow Bridge, 1967.
Though the railings had been painted "white," by the time of this photo, they were already peeling.
Photo courtesy of Keith Hawks


The Rainbow Bridge was painted again sometime from 1967 to 1971

Feb. 1971 - David Fox descending the stairs of the Rainbow Bridge, with his mom.  The railings are black once again.
Photo courtesy of David Fox

Cindy Summerfield and her daughter, circa 1972.
 Photo by Karen Brown


Grant Martin, 2nd from left, circa late 60s-early 70s in front of the Rainbow Bridge that led to Fairyland at Lowry Park. His twin brother Gary, his sister Lisa and brother (far right) Ray are also pictured.

 

The bridge was again repainted by the mid 1970s, and by 1980, fairytale and nursery rhyme characters were added to it along with repainting the stripes.  The railing from around the fountain was also removed, as well as the statues of the boy and girl.

Jeff Wynne and his daughter Jessica, circa 1975.
Photo of her dad and sister courtesy of Chrissy Keck.

Cheryl Jones and her sister Beverly Jones, circa 1980.
The railings are gone.
Photo courtesy of Steve Tamargo, Cheryl's husband
Photo taken by Mr. Jones

 
King High School students on the Rainbow Bridge, from the 1980 school yearbook Clarion.
Photo courtesy of Chris Mygrant from his Susan Houx Estate yearbook collection.


The Rainbow Bridge to Fairyland, circa 1980.
The girl and boy statues are gone, but a new plaque has been placed in front of the original one.
Photo courtesy of Rachel Nelson, Public Relations Director, Lowry Park Zoo

 

 

Fairyland was a popular attraction for both young and old, where scenes from Grimm's and Mother Goose fairytales and nursery rhymes were re-created in the form of statues in the shade of massive oak trees.

 

 

 

Children at storybook setting, Rupunzel's castle, with Willie the Whale in background, Fairyland at Lowry Park, Nov 21, 1957. 

Photo courtesy of the Burgert Brothers collection at the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library.

 


Child at Rupunzel's castle, Fairyland at Lowry Park, Nov 21, 1957. 
From the Tampa Bay History Center exhibit, "Finding Fairyland."

 

 


Children and mother looking at a storybook setting of the Three LIttle Pigs (featuring live pigs), Fairyland attraction at Lowry Park
Nov. 21, 1957.   Photo courtesy of the Burgert Brothers collection at the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library.

 

Little Miss Muffet nursery rhyme scene at Fairyland, circa 1957.
Photo courtesy of Yvonne Colado Garren, taken by her father Hector Colado.

 

 
 

The slide at Fairyland, circa 1957
Place your cursor on the photo to see lower left portion enlarged, Humpty Dumpty exhibit.
Photo courtesy of Yvonne Colado Garren.
 

The children's carousel at Fairyland, circa 1957
Photo courtesy of Yvonne Colado Garren, taken by her father Hector Colado.
 

Sister and brother Cindy and David Bacon
with the Big Bad Wolf, July 13, 1958.

Big Bad Wolf storybook setting with
young lawyer Bob Jagger, July 13, 1958.

     
From this article by Paul Guzzo "Figurines from Fairyland in Tampa may return to public."
 
 
 
 

1957-58 Tampa News Bureau Photo and caption when it was used in the Times:
Three Little Pigs are one of many live animal exhibits in Tampa's new Fairyland, a municipally-owned attraction featuring ten acres of fairy tales and playground equipment.  Open without charge from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., Fairyland is already attracting thousands of people each week. 

The photo appeared again on Jun.21, 1987 in the St. Pete Times with the following caption: "Fairyland at the Lowery [sic] Park Zoo attracted its share of visitors in the early 60s.  The three little pigs were just one of many live animal exhibits featured.  Fairyland is still in operation today at the zoo on Sligh Avenue.


 
 
 

This circa 1959-60 photo is courtesy of Marcia Gordon. (L-R) Marcia's cousin Allen Driggers, Marcia's  sister Melody (Gordon) Gruber, sister Gail (Gordon) Haag, Marcia, and her cousin, Debra Driggers. This picture was taken in 1959 or 1960.

 Dec, 2016 - "My sisters and I loved Fairyland so much. My sister Melody wanted to make a mother-daughter trip to see Fairyland but I told her that Fairyland had long since been done away with. We are Tampa natives and as children loved Fairyland and have fond memories. Our mother now age 90 took us to Fairyland! You are very welcome to use this picture."

Thank you Marcia!

 

Lowry Park nursery rhyme scene from Jack and Jill with Mary Hall** and Sharon Conrad at Fairyland in the Tri-city Suncoast Festival, Feb. 1961.   From Florida Memory State Library & Archives https://www.floridamemory.com/items/show/78656

 

 

Willie the Whale - A proud young lady pushing her baby cousin in his stroller. This 1962 photo gives a glimpse into the whale's mouth, revealing an aquarium with plants and fish. 
Photo provided by the Estrada family.

 

The lower portion of Rapunzel's castle and the moat, 1962.  Notice at upper left the house that was on the park grounds, and just above it, a turret of King Arthur's Castle Gift Shoppe. 
Photo provided by the Estrada family
.

 

 

Early 1960s - Willie the Whale with the Fueyo family at Willie the Whale.
Patti, John , Mike , & Betty and Eddie Cuenca. Photo provided by Patti Fueyo Tamayo.

 

 

Ofelia Gordon and her daughter Karen at Fairyland's "Old Lady Who Lived In A Shoe."
May 1963 photo provided by Ofelia's son, Rex Gordon, Hillsborough High School historian.

 

Children having their picture taken in front of Rapunzel's castle, Feb. 1966 from Florida Memory State Library & Archives

https://www.floridamemory.com/items/show/82763

 

People walking through Fairyland storybook setting, Humpty Dumpty, Feb. 1966 from
Florida Memory State Library & Archives  https://www.floridamemory.com/items/show/82764
 Humpty Dumpty sitting on his wall while the king, a king's horse & a king's man wait for his fall.  In the background - the old lady who lived in a shoe.

This beautiful and extremely rare 1966 photo provided by Kimberly Jones Dodson to the "Save Fairyland" Facebook group shows Kim and her late brother at Noah's Ark which was situated near the area leading to the animals at the zoo. Though no mention of it has been found in any surviving park brochures or newspaper articles, it can be seen that it was there for a number of years at this point.  Special thanks to Kimberly for sharing this priceless memory of herself and her brother.

Mary Hall** and  Sharon Conrad on the Lowry Park train at Fairyland, Feb. 1961
From Florida Memory State Library & Archives
https://www.floridamemory.com/items/show/78657

From Chamberlain High School yearbook "Totem"

**Mary Hall is model/actress Lauren Hutton.  Hutton was born Mary Laurence Hutton in Charleston, South Carolina. Her parents divorced when she was young, and after her mother remarried, her last name was changed to her stepfather's name, "Hall", although he never formally adopted her. She graduated from Chamberlain High School in Tampa in 1961, and was among the first students to attend the University of South Florida in 1961. Hutton later relocated with former Tampa disc jockey Pat Chambers, 19 years her senior, to New York City, where she worked at the Playboy Club. The pair later moved to New Orleans, where she attended Newcomb College, then a coordinate college within Tulane University, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1964.
See Tedd Webb's "Tampa Bay Legends."

 


Ticket on right courtesy of Tampa Bay History Center "Finding Fairyland" exhibit.

The miniature train ride at Lowry Park, circa 1960s.  Color postcard photo from Delcampe.net.


The Tampa Fairyland Railroad departing for Jungle-Land, May 31, 1965.
Tampa Bay Times archive photo courtesy of Kimi Lau-Costanzo.


 

Local band "The Rovin' Flames--Ready for Action" on the Lowry Park fire truck.
Sept. 1, 1966 photo from  newspaper clipping at Garage Hangover.
Click to see the whole article.

Another article, from the Oct. 7, 1966 Chamberlain High School newspaper "Chieftain."
(In new window, click the article to see full size.)
 

 

 

Thanks to Bill Townsend of "Tampa's Bravest" and "Tampa Firefighters Museum" who says the truck is a 1941 LaFrance with 100 ft. TDA (tractor drawn aerial.)

There was a 500 series and 600 series:

1. Squared-off front grille with 5 slots in 3 sections.
2. Thin windshield frame.
Indicates this was a 600 series.

3. Fender at rear wheel of the cab.
4. Squared-off fender of ladder trailer.
By all appearances, the truck below may be the same truck.


Thanks to Kermit Nelson and Kimi Lau-Costanzo for info on the 500 & 600 series differences and newspaper photo.

 

~1944 Photo of 1941 American LaFrance ~ 100' Tractor Drawn Ladder ~ In front of Old Firehouse #5, Tampa~ Firefighters Museum at "Aerials/Ladders" TampasBravest.com courtesy of Bill Townsend.
Photo by Robertson & Fresh
See more photos of this station here at Tampa's Bravest

 

~August 3, 1944 ~ Ladder #1 ~ 1941 American LaFrance / 100ft. Tractor Drawn Ladder~
Courtesy of Tampa"s Bravest.com by Burgert Bros. at Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library System
This building is now the location of the Tampa Firefighters Museum

 

A 100-ft. TDA with a 1941 LaFrance series 500
Notice curved grille at fender and thick windshield frame.
Horicon, Wis.

 

 

The Merry Miller's Mill
Photo postcard courtesy of Kimi Lau-Costanzo.
Mouse over the image to see reverse side.

 

Three Men in a Tub - the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker.
Photo postcard courtesy of Delcampe.net


The Old Lady who lived in a shoe. Photo courtesy of Delcampe.net.

 

      

Students riding the roller coaster at Lowry Park's Fairyland.
From 1976 Tampa Bay Tech yearbook Titan.

Tony Sanders was the Magic Dragon roller coaster operator in 1980.  Photo courtesy of Tony Sanders.

 

 Magic Dragon roller coaster, circa 1980s. Photos by Michael S. Horwood See more photos

    

 

King Arthur's Castle, Fairyland Gift Shoppe.  The only place in the park with air conditioning for guests.
Postcard image from eBay

 

 

The basketball-playing chicken coin-operated show, with Robinson High School students voted "Most Athletic" Barbara Shakula and former University of Tampa Spartan football running back Morris La Grande. When University of Tampa quarterback Freddie Solomon wasn't scrambling for yardage, it was usually because he had handed the ball off to the thundering running back "The LaGrand Express".  Photo from 1971 Robinson High School yearbook Excalibur.


 

 


Lowry Park History - City Commissioner Sumter de Leon Lowry Sr.

Long before the park, zoo and the neighborhoods were named for him, Dr. Sumter L. Lowry built his house in South Tampa. Today, two neighborhoods carry his name and the Lowry House is home to law offices at 333 S Plant Ave.

Sumter L. Lowry (Sr.) was born in 1861 in York, S. Carolina, the son of a Confederate Army surgeon. He studied pharmacology at S. Carolina Medical School College and worked as a druggist before moving to Palatka, Fla. in 1888. There he had a pharmacy before moving to Tampa in 1894.

 

 

The Lowry house at 333 S. Plant Ave.
Photo courtesy of LoopNet.com
 

 

In 1895 Lowry Sr. built his home, an attractive clapboard house with Queen Anne elements, a short distance from Hillsborough Bay in Hyde Park North. He he quickly became involved in local civic groups; organizing and presiding over the Commission Government Club of Tampa. When the city adopted the commission form of government, Lowry was among the first elected (January 3, 1922 -  January 24, 1928.)

During his six years on the commission, Lowry played a key role in the purchase and installation of the city waterworks and port improvements. He helped build Municipal Hospital (now Tampa General), rehabilitate the Tampa Bay Hotel (now University of Tampa) and build five bridges. Lowry also raised funds to build downtown's St. Andrew's Episcopal Church and was a founder of St. John's Episcopal Church in Old Hyde Park.

 

 

Lowry Park Beginnings

In 1918, Dr. Lowry urged the city of Tampa to buy land north of Sligh Avenue at North Blvd and dedicate it for use as a public park. (Some sources say he donated the land and suggested a park be built.) Around 1925, after years of hard work, it became a reality, and the park was later named  in Lowry's honor.  Sumter L. Lowry, Sr. died in 1934 at age 75.

In the beginning, Lowry Park was little more than 10 or so acres of picnic grounds.

Original cabanas on the grounds of Lowry Park, north of Sligh Avenue in April, 1935.
Photo from Florida Memory at Florida State Archives. https://www.floridamemory.com/items/show/151691 
   

Original cabanas on the grounds of Lowry Park, north of Sligh Avenue in April, 1935.
Photo from Florida Memory at Florida State Archives. https://www.floridamemory.com/items/show/151692
 

 

TAMPA'S ZOO

Meanwhile, Tampa's zoo began around 1937 as an animal shelter in Plant Park, on the banks of the Hillsborough River near downtown.   It was started by city employees and originally consisted of a small collection of indigenous animals such as raccoons, alligators and an aviary with a variety of exotic birds.

Three women looking at alligator from a foot bridge in Plant Park, Sept. 11, 1936.

Burgert Bros. photo from the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library digital collection

 

 

 

 

 

 

The entrance to Plant Park with the University of Tampa in the background, Sept. 5, 1936.

Burgert Bros. photo from the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library digital collection

 


Mayor Nuccio's Gift - Lowry Park Developed With Fairyland and Joined by Tampa's Zoo

Lowry Park remained relatively unchanged from its beginning as a picnic area in the 1930s until the mid 1950s when it was decided to build a children's storybook section consisting of characters from well-known fairytales with excerpts from the story to be used as markers for each scene.

Tampa Mayor Nick Nuccio, 1960s
Photo is a crop from USF Digital Collection

The building of Lowry Park as an amusement park and tourist attraction was an amazing story because it was built so inexpensively, even for its day -- it cost $60,000 for everything -- about the cost of five average middle class homes in the suburbs at the time. Mayor Nuccio said it could easily have cost the city double that amount had a private company been contracted for the job.  He engineered the project himself.  The park became his baby, and he made certain it would succeed.

Nuccio got the idea while he was visiting in New Orleans, where he was impressed with a similar attraction.  When he returned to Tampa, he started the wheels turning. 

This park in New Orleans is still in operation today as Storyland.  See it here.

Storyland in City Park, New Orleans.  Photo from New Orleans Official Guide  See 17 more photos of Storyland.


 

 

 

 

No city funds were ever budgeted for the Fairyland project; every effort was made to keep expenses down. This is how it was in Tampa in the 1950s--when Mayor Nuccio asked for donations from the businessmen of Tampa, they contributed generously, no questioned asked, for they all knew Nick’s heart was in the right place. That’s what paid for the figurines in Fairyland, not taxes.
 

Parks Department labor did the construction work.  During the summer, college students helped.  The park superintendent, B. B. Bradley, did the landscaping.  It saved an architect's fee.  Nuccio hired ONE carpenter. Scrap metal was bought from the West Coast Salvage Company for 8 cents per 50 pounds according to Jack Ryan, the construction supervisor for the project.  Eighty percent of the cages were built with the scrap metal.  Salvage bricks were obtained from public works projects.

Work began on Fairyland in 1957, with its landmark entrance, the Rainbow Bridge.  That alone would have cost the city $5,500, but Cone Brothers Construction Co. did it for nothing.  Fairyland was completed by November.

As the zoo collection at Plant Park had grown, the animals were moved during the term of Mayor Nick Nuccio to the more centrally located Lowry park in 1957 where it was maintained by Tampa's Parks Department.

 

 

ZOO CONSTRUCTION

Around the same time that Fairyland construction was started, work began on a small but quality zoo (for its day) which was completed by the following summer.  The cages were built, Jungle Land was completed, now all they needed was animals for the cages and to roam loose in Jungle Land.

Nearly all the animals were contributed.  Two wholesalers gave a couple of chimpanzees.  August Busch presented the zoo with two buffalo and some mountain goats.  Nuccio decided the zoo needed some monkeys, so he put an ad in the paper which in effect said, "The Fairyland Zoo needs some monkeys."  Nuccio said they got so many monkeys they didn't know what to do with them all. 

Lowry Park zoo supervisor and trainer Bill O'Harris said 95 percent of the animals were donated.  Four lions -- Peggy, Herman, Leo and Penny --were all gifts.  Seven-year-old Leo was part of an act in one of Clyde Beatty's circuses.  O'Harris said he was too tough to work with at the circus, so they gave him to the zoo.  Tiny, the Bengal tiger, was loaned by Sarasota's C.R. Montgomery who supplied food to both the zoo and the Sarasota Kennel Club.  The Russian bear was donated by Supertest Oil Company, when that firm closed down its amusement park at Dale Mabry and Columbus Drive. 

The day the finished park opened, 32,000 people came.  In the mid-1960s, operating expenses cost the city around $65,000 a year for the park, including salaries of five people, food for the animals, maintenance, repair and capital outlay.

A former parks superintendant, the director of sanitation and several others pitched in to get Susie, the chimpanzee, and in 1960, Dr. Lowry's son, General Sumter L. Lowry, Jr. gave the zoo its most prominent exotic animal, Sheena, an 18-month-old Asian elephant.

 


Sheena the performing elephant, with Suzie the chimp, 1960s.  Color postcard from Delcampe.net.

 

One day in 1960, a man approached Gen. Lowry and asked him to buy an elephant. Lowry asked "Why should I?" The man said "because the children of Tampa have never seen one." Sumter agreed to buy it, but only on the condition it could be here by Christmas. He asked, "Where is this elephant?" "Well, India." was the reply.

Sheena was the first elephant to fly in a jet. She was flown to Tampa from Burma.

Baby Sheena giving Donna Ringer and hitchhiking Suzie the chimp a ride, circa 1965.

Photo provided by Rick Ringer

 

Suzie played an important role in getting the elephant house for Sheena.  She performed with Sheena in a circus ring at the park twice daily and three times on Sundays.  Around 1963, after each performance, Susie would go into the crowd of spectators with a cup, collecting contributions for Sheena's new home.  In a year, $4,000 was collected and by 1965, Sheena had a new home.

 

The acquisition of Sheena provided the impetus for expanding and diversifying the animal collection. By 1987 the zoo was the home of eight different species of animals, including two Florida black bears, two Bengal tigers, a Himalayan black bear, a chimpanzee, two spider monkeys and two otters. As the collection continued to grow, the need to upgrade the habitats and present the animals in natural settings became an issue fully embraced by the Tampa bay area community, which resulted in the formation of an organization dedicated to building a first-class zoological garden.    Zoo History continued

What's in a Name, Michael Canning, May 30, 2003 City Times  (Ultimate source: Tampa Bay History Center)

City of Tampa Archives

June 1, 1965 Evening Independent - Donors Share Their Spots With Lion's Share of Free Animals

Sept. 4, 1987 - Lakeland Ledger - Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo Closes   Conclusion

Lowry Park at Wikipedia   Read about the history of Lowry Park Zoo

 



Fairyland token provided by Kimi Lau-Costanzo.
 

General Sumter L. Lowry, Jr.

Sumter de Leon Lowry, Jr. was born in St. Augustine, FL on August 27, 1893 to Sumter de Leon Lowry and Willie Miller Lowry.  Lowry, Jr. was a Lt. General in the National Guard, a businessman, and political activist.

In 1894 the Lowry family moved from Palatka to the Tampa Bay area, and by 1914 he began his military career. In 1916 Sumter married Elizabeth Bellamy Parkhill, together they had 5 children.

A 1914 graduate and veteran of two world wars, he set a pattern of accomplishment and distinguished service during his cadet days at Virginia Military Institute. He was a Cadet Captain and Company Commander, a varsity letterman in both football and basketball, president of the monogram club and captain of the basketball team.

At his graduation he became the first recipient of the Cincinnati Medal, awarded then as now to the graduate who is most distinguished in efficiency of service and excellence of character.

Sumter de Leon Lowry, Jr in his football uniform at VMI, 1914.

Photo from Virginia Military Institute Digital Archives

He was a long time member of the Florida National Guard and took part in that organization's service on the Mexican border in 1916, followed by service in Europe for the First World War, and in the Pacific for the Second World War  as a brigadier general in the Army's 31st Division in the Pacific.

 


His military career included organizing the 116th Field Artillery Regiment of the Florida National Guard in 1921, as well as, establishing Benjamin Field camp (renamed Fort Homer Hesterly in 1940). By 1934 he received a promotion to Brigadier General and command over the 56th Field Artillery U.S. National Guard.

Concurrent with his military career, Lowry established the Victory National Life Insurance in 1921 serving as president. His company, Victory National Life Insurance Company, paid the $300,000 life insurance claim on D.P. Davis when he fell overboard on a cruise in 1926. Lowry investigated Davis’ death and decided to pay off the policy. Later, he wrote in his memoirs that this act "gave the public a lot of confidence in my brand new insurance company.”)  In 1928, he served on the board for Gulf Life Insurance after a merger with Victory National Life Insurance.

"Watch Us Grow!" was the slogan of the Victory National Life Insurance Company the day it opened for business on Nov. 5, 1923 in this small building on Marion Street just south of Lafayette (now Kennedy Blvd.). And grow it did. Later came the mammoth Gulf Life Insurance Company. Victory National Life was capitalized for $500,000, this being the only life insurance company organized in Florida at the time, by Florida men and with Florida capital. The entire operating staff that opening day is shown in this photo, left to right, Loper B. Lowry, sales force; Marjorie Giles Davis, Policy writer and stenographer; Sumter L. Lowry, President and General Manager, and D. S. Hull, Actuary.

Photo and caption from "A Life Insurance Company Is Born In Tampa", Sunland Tribune, Journal of the Tampa Historical Society, Vol. 6, No. 1, Nov. 1980.

In 1952, Sumter Lowry retired to civilian life as a Lt. General. He continued to be active in business, community affairs, and politics until his death in 1985 at the age of 91.

 

1949 Reunion of VMI Class of 1914 alumna. 

Photo from VMI Digital Archives

Lowry was a recipient of the Distinguished Service Medal, and commendations from the state legislatures of both Florida and South Carolina.

 


A charter member of the Institute Society, Lowry was the donor of the Sumter L. Lowry Award, which yearly goes to the winner of the Cincinnati Medal.  (VMI Cadet, Nov. 8, 1974)

Along with Lieutenant General Albert H. Blanding, he was one of the national founders of the American Legion. Lowry ran for governor on a segregation platform in 1956, losing to LeRoy Collins. General Lowry was well known to Floridians often as an outspoken right-wing conservative who was a vocal anti-integrationist and anti-communist for his entire life.

Sources: 
Sumter Lowry Papers, University of S. Florida 
"Distinguished Men Honored" VMI Cadet, Nov. 8, 1974.
"A Life Insurance Company Is Born In Tampa", Sunland Tribune, Journal of the Tampa Historical Society, Vol. 6, No. 1, Nov. 1980.

 

 


RACIAL DISCRIMINATION AT LOWRY PARK

Not too many are aware of the fact that in the early years of Lowry Park, African Americans were not allowed. In fact, many places also barred Cubans from entering. It was an ugly part of Tampa's past, but not unique to Tampa; it was rampant all over the south.  It wasn't until 1962 that the city's parks were desegregated, thanks to Henry Cabot Lodge Bohler.
 

Born in Augusta, Georgia in 1925, Henry Cabot Lodge Bohler spent  much of his life being told what he couldn't do. He dreamed of flying one day, but was told he couldn't become a pilot because he was black. Instead of accepting that decision, he enlisted in the Army Air Forces at the age of 17. At enlistment, he weighed 109 pounds, which was one pound under the minimum weight for airmen; through persuasion, he was able to join anyway.

Mr. Bohler trained at the Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama, the home base of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American air corps in the United States. He learned to fly the P-51 Mustang fighter, and earned his wings in 1944.

    
Photo from "Find A Grave."
 

Mr. Bohler's persistence during the civil-rights era would be challenged again after he and his family moved to Tampa in 1950.  This time, he was told that he could not own his own business. His persistence again paid off as he became Tampa's first African-American licensed electrician and operated his own business enterprise.

In 1959, Mr. Bohler, his wife and their three children went to the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa. The family was denied entry to the zoo because of their race. Mr. Bohler sued the city for discrimination.

During the two years it took to hear the case, Mr. Bohler was routinely harassed by city police who would pull his car over and demand to check his driver's license. On the day he was ordered to appear in federal court, he was pulled over five times.

As before, Mr. Bohler ultimately prevailed, with the result being a 1962 federal order requiring Tampa to integrate its public recreation facilities.

In later years, Mr. Bohler and other area Tuskegee Airmen spoke at area schools, and he was an inspiration to local pilots.   Jackie Beiro, a pilot and friend of the family, runs a nonprofit, Nobal Aviation. 

 

BOHLER, et al v. LANE, et al
Civ. No. 3809.
204 F.Supp. 168 (1962)

The evidence presented in support of the complaint reveals that on June 21, 1959, one of the plaintiffs, Henry Cabot Lodge Bohler, accompanied by his family and several other companions, visited Lowry Park, one of the parks involved in this litigation. Approximately twenty-five (25) minutes after their arrival, a police officer and a park attendant in charge of Lowry Park came up to them and requested them to leave. The Negroes demanded an explanation as to why they were not permitted to remain on the premises, but they were informed without any further explanation that they had to leave or they would be arrested. The Negroes complied and left said park immediately.

On the following day, the plaintiff, Henry Cabot Lodge Bohler, accompanied by a local Negro citizen named Banfield, went to see the Chief of Police** for the purpose of finding out under what authority they had been requested to leave the park by the police officer in question. The Police Chief informed them that the policeman was within his rights and that they could have been arrested had they not complied with his request. When pressed for specific authority or statute or ordinance upon which the exclusion of Negroes might have been based, the Chief of Police said, "Well, we would arrest you first and then we could find charges later."

Banfield, in the month of September, 1959, again visited Lowry Park with his family, and shortly after his arrival was again asked to leave, which he did.

**Tampa's Chief of Police at the time was John D. Latture.

Read more at:  Bohler, et al vs. Lane, et al

 
In early August of 2007, the group held an event at Hillsborough Community College to honor three bay area Tuskegee Airmen, particularly Bohler, who was the only living member of the group in Tampa. “We had no idea we were running out of time,” Beiro said. “Six days later, he’s gone. He’s had an impact on a lot of people. You just mention his name in the community, and people remember him.”

Until he became ill, Mr. Bohler never missed the annual reunions of the Tuskegee Airmen. He’d fly his own Piper Archer to the events, held in various cities throughout the country. His flying stopped when he was 80, when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor, his wife said. Shortly thereafter, he fell while working in his garage at his east Tampa home and hit his head. But the family did not realize the injury had caused bleeding on the brain.

Soon afterward, acquaintances noticed Mr. Bohler stumbling during his daily five-mile walk at the Middleton High School track. They brought him home to Clifford Marie Bohler. “I was so scared,” she said. “He never said another word. It was terrible.”

Mr. Bohler went to the hospital and never came home. He stayed in a couple of medical facilities before moving to one in Wesley Chapel. 

In work and in life, Henry Cabot Lodge Bohler never settled for less than equality. He believed no one should. Mr. Bohler, a father and grandfather, died Aug. 10, 2007 as a result of brain injuries from a fall nearly two years earlier. He was 82.

See the source article of this info with more detail, Tuskegee Airman fought for equality in Tampa in 1960s
 

Jay Wisler, who worked in the brewery at Busch Gardens, said "I had the pleasure of working with him at Anheuser Busch here in Tampa. He was quite a gentleman and I enjoyed listening to his stories about his Tuskegee days and the racial discrimination that occurred." Roy Pulliam recalled, "He was a really great, nice guy. Great sense of humor. I knew him from hanging around at Peter O. Knight airport where he kept his Piper Archer. He flew P-40s, P-47s and P-51s during WW 2."


See also Henry Cabot Lodge Bohler at Wikipedia
 

 

 

 

 


Sheena the performing elephant, with Suzie the chimp, 1960s.  Color postcard from Delcampe.net.

 


The following photos were graciously contributed by Linda Godfrey Napier.  Her father, James Godfrey, helped build Fairyland and the storybook character statues, as well as working as Sheena's trainer in the early years of Lowry Park.  He also trained Suzie and Joey, the chimpanzees, and Bobo the spider monkey.
 

Sheena the baby elephant, and Susie the chimp,
circa early 1960s. 
Photo courtesy of Linda Godfrey Napier.
 

Sheena performing for park guests, along with her trainer James Godfrey, circa late 1960s.
Photo courtesy of James' daughter, Linda Godfrey Napier.


James Godfrey watching Sheena practice, 1962.
Photo courtesy of James' daughter, Linda Godfrey Napier.

Thank you to Tampa native Mary Tolbert Johnson who shared this memory of Mr. Godfrey with us:
Mr. Godfrey was also a security guard. I worked in the concession stand that was half in the ground. The Sertomans operated the concession and Bea Reynolds managed it. Mr. Godfrey would walk me thru the park at nights to gather the monies from the vending machines. I was so grateful. Lowry Park at night with all the screeching sounds was scary to a young girl. Great days those were. They inspired me to continue my education.
 

   

Bobo, the Spider Monkey
Jim's daughter, Linda Godfrey Napier, says Bobo sometimes would spit at spectators. Linda's dad could never make him stop.  Photo courtesy of James' daughter, Linda Godfrey Napier.


 

Bobo and his trainer, James Godfrey
Bobo would dig into Jim's shirt pocket pull out cigarettes put one in his mouth and wait for him to light it.
Photo courtesy of James' daughter, Linda Godfrey Napier.
 

 

 

The Big Plane at Lowry Park

 


1972
Photo and date from eBay postcard seller BondgirlFL


The big plane at Lowry Park was a US Navy P2V-3 Neptune; a patrol bomber used by the Navy to attack enemy surface ships and submarines.  The Neptune was the primary U.S. land-based anti-submarine patrol aircraft developed near the end of World War 2 and was intended to be operated as the hunter of a '"Hunter-Killer" group, with destroyers employed as killers during the Korean and early Cold War years.  It was eventually replaced by the P3 Orion in the mid-1960s. 

 

 

This particular plane was serial number 122944 and flew submarine bomber command training patrol missions out of the Jacksonville Naval Air Station during the early 1950s.  By the late 1950s, this type of plane was becoming obsolete--submarines were getting more sophisticated and could stay underwater for a month, and it was not feasible for the Navy to spend the money to keep this type of aircraft maintained.

 

It's not known exactly why Lowry Park was the recipient of the plane, or when it was brought there (as of yet), but it was there by 1962 (see "Ferris Wheel Caper" below.)

 



This screen shot from a YouTube video collection of short episodes of "The Ferris Wheel Caper" filmed at Lowry Park in 1962 starring "Barney Bungelupper" and "Uncle Bruce" shows the plane in its original condition and named the "FAIRYLAND Song Bird."  The name was a decal applied for the making of the feature.

 

 


Alan and Karen Gordon at the big plane, May 1963.
Photo provided by their younger brother, author and Hillsborough High School historian Rex Gordon.

 

 

Seen here around 1976, sporting a patriotic color scheme and "76" logo to celebrate the Nation's upcoming bicentennial, sits the big plane that for many years was a drab, gray "jungle gym" for adventurous kids with a yearning to climb something.  Notice on the far left; the "muscle-powered" swinging cages.

 

 

 


The Navy bomber at Lowry Park in 1981
It is not known at this time what the purpose of the miniature, 3-dimensional fishing village in the pool was.  It appears to have been an attraction, possibly where one could catch live fish?
Photo and date from eBay postcard seller BondgirlFL

 

The plane was removed in 1984.

 


Moving day for the big plane, 1984.
Work on moving the plane started the night before, but went on past sunup the next day.
Photo provided by Emil Joseph at the Facebook group "Memories of Tampa & Life 60s,70s,80s"

 


Moving day for the big plane, wings and tail removed, 1984.
Work on moving the plane started the night before, but went on past sunup the next day.
Photo provided by Emil Joseph at the Facebook group "Memories of Tampa & Life 60s,70s,80s"

 

Read about the next life of this plane, its restoration and its demise, here at TampaPix.

 

 


David Fox riding the big rooster, late 1960s, with his dad, great-uncle, great-aunt and sister.
Photo courtesy of David Fox

 

Keith Hawks, 1967, courtesy of Keith Hawks

 David Fox (middle) and mom, Feb. 1971



Bill Fischer on the big chicken at Lowry Park, 1964
Photo provided by his cousin, Jeanette Tamborello





The big rooster at Lowry Park, with Mary Van den Ancker and her siblings, circa 1970s.
Photo courtesy of Mary Van den Ancker.

 

Below:  More photos from David Fox, late 1960s
David's Goat and Peacock Experience at Lowry Park

 

 

 

 

 

   


Alligators & turtles at Fairyland's Lowry Park Zoo, Nov. 21, 1965.
Tampa Bay Times archives photo courtesy of Kimi Lau-Costanzo.

 


The seal pool, 1965. St. Pete Times photo by M. Awtrey.

 

 

 

 

 

The seal pool, circa 1972. 
Photo by Karen Brown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lowry Park clown, circa 1972
Photo by Karen Brown

 

 

    

Little Fairy Queen riverboat ride at Lowry Park, Hillsborough River, circa 1960s postcard.
From Etsy.com Pecan Hill Postcards


 
Little Fairy Queen riverboat ride at Lowry Park, 1959
by Rick T. Parnell

 

Cannella family Italian dinner reunion at the shelters at Lowry Park, mid-1960s. The shelters were located on the east side
of Lowry Park's zoo and Fairyland, east of North Blvd.  Families included, but not limited to, Cannella, Cutro, Gullo, and Palori.  Photos provided by Steve Cannella, who said: "My father arrived early in the morning and 'claimed' the cabana. Back then, just sitting on the cabana waiting for the family to arrive pretty much gave one 'legal' right to it.
 


Cannella family Italian dinner reunion at the shelters at Lowry Park, mid-1960s. The shelters were located on the east side
of Lowry Park's zoo and Fairyland, east of North Blvd.  Families included, but not limited to, Cannella, Cutro, Gullo, and Palori. 
Photos provided by Steve Cannella. 


Cannella family Italian dinner reunion at the shelters at Lowry Park, mid-1960s. The shelters were located on the east side
of Lowry Park's zoo and Fairyland, east of North Blvd.  Families included, but not limited to, Cannella, Cutro, Gullo, and Palori. 
Photos provided by Steve Cannella. 

 

 


Cannella family Italian dinner reunion at the shelters at Lowry Park, mid-1960s. The shelters were located on the east side
of Lowry Park's zoo and Fairyland, east of North Blvd.  Families included, but not limited to, Cannella, Cutro, Gullo, and Palori.  Photos provided by Steve Cannella, seen here in front row, just right of center. 

 


Time to eat!  Mangia, mangia!  Cannella family Italian dinner reunion at the shelters at Lowry Park, mid-1960s. The shelters were located on the east side of Lowry Park's zoo and Fairyland, east of North Blvd.  Families included, but not limited to, Cannella, Cutro, Gullo, and Palori.  Photos provided by Steve Cannella. Stay tuned for future identification of each person.

The Ferris Wheel Caper was filmed at Lowry Park in 1962 and starred local (WFLA TV channel 8) kid's TV show host Uncle Bruce (Bruce Rodrick), along with Little Mike (his ventriloquist dummy) and sidekick Barney Bungelupper (Jerry Martin).  It has been split up into 6 videos on the Barneytheclown YouTube site and embedded here for your convenience.  All videos feature the Ferris wheel.

 

 

Chapter 1 gives a good view of the original Lowry Park sign and surrounding neighborhood, including the intersection of Sligh Avenue and North Blvd.

Also featured are the rainbow bridge to Fairyland, Humpty Dumpty, the seal pools, the Ferris wheel, a brief glimpse of the old navy bomber plane, a park structure and phone booth.

 

 

 

Chapter 2 shows the seals in the seal pool enclosure, the trained animal show by Bill O'Harris with baby elephant Sheena and chimpanzee Suzie, and occasional views of the audience.  Various parts of Fairyland can be seen in the background, and children are shown posing on Sheena with Suzie behind them.

 

 

  Chapter 3 & 4 features the old P2V-2 Navy bomber "Fairyland Song Bird", the miniature train ride that circled Fairyland, Peter Rabbit's home in Fairyland, Mr. O'Harris training a pony, and Suzie the chimp trying to open a padlock and playing in a bucket.

  Chapter 5 shows Ferris wheel owner Mr. Jones, a refreshment stand with kid's level service window, the roller coaster entrance ramp, and a view of 2 amusement rides including the carousel.

  Chapter 6 mainly features the Ferris wheel, with a short segment that shows the playground monkey bars.

   

Chapter 7 shows the playground and possibly an animal shelter, the sprint car go karts, Suzie the chimp and trainer Bill O'harris,

 

 

 

HERMAN
 

In 1971, Lowry Park's zoo received a donation of two, 5-year-old chimpanzees.  One would become the zoo's longest-lived resident.  For 35 years, Herman would be the subject of much attention by zoo guests, and keepers alike. 

 

Read about the life of Herman, from his birth in Liberia in 1966, how he came to the U.S. and to Lowry Park, his donor's only two requirements, the terrible zoo conditions for his first 16 years at the old zoo, his antics, and the tragic end to his life in 2006.  Here on this separate page: 

 

Herman - the King of Lowry Park Zoo

   

 


Presidential rally for Jimmy Carter at Lowry Park
Oct. 18, 1976

 


An estimated 10,000 residents showed up for Jimmy Carter's rally at Lowry Park, Oct. 18, 1976.
Photo taken from behind the podium.  Notice the "Rowdies love Jimmy!" sign.

Tampa Bay Times archives photo courtesy of Kimi Lau-Costanzo


Entertaining the crowd at Jimmy Carter's rally at Lowry Park, Oct. 18, 1976.
Tampa Bay Times archives photo courtesy of Kimi Lau-Costanzo.

   

Senator Lawton Chiles speaking to the crowd and being upstaged by a very bizarre looking peanut man figure at the Carter Rally, Lowry Park, Oct. 18, 1976.  After his term as U.S. Senator, "Walkin' Lawton" became Florida Governor from 1991 to 1998. Tampa Bay Times archives photo courtesy of Kimi Lau-Costanzo.

Presidential candidate Jimmy Carter at his rally, Lowry Park, Oct. 18, 1976. Tampa Bay Times archives photo courtesy of Kimi Lau-Costanzo.

An elderly man sits to get comfortable at the rally for Carter in Lowry Park, Oct. 18, 1976. Tampa Bay Times archives photo courtesy of Kimi Lau-Costanzo.

A man sits in a tree in order to view the rally for Carter at Lowry Park. Tampa Bay Times archives photo courtesy of Kimi Lau-Costanzo.

 

These beautiful photos below were taken in October of 1979 by Linda Perdue, now of  VP Shoots Photography.  Linda, along with Jim Vargas, specialize in pet and family photography, and have over 30 years of experience in the corporate world with all types of photography.  Linda took these when she was just 17, about a year after getting her first "real camera," and did a fantastic job.  These particular photos are displayed on their blog here at "Remember Fairy Land at Lowry Park?" where you can read Linda's comments and thoughts on these photos. 

Thank you Linda for allowing TampaPix to display your memorable photographs!

The pristine condition of the Rainbow Bridge indicates that it had been recently repainted.
Photo courtesy of Linda Perdue, Oct. 1979.

 

"Cinderella in Rags" - Oct. 1979.  Photo by and courtesy of Linda Perdue.
Notice the gleaming gold crown of the fairy godmother.

 

"Cinderella in her coach" - Oct. 1979.  Photo by and courtesy of Linda Perdue.

 

The third little pig of "The Three Little Pigs" and his mighty fine house!
Oct. 1979.  Photo by and courtesy of Linda Perdue.

 


The really big shoe of "The Old Lady Who Lived in a Shoe."
Oct. 1979.  Photo by and courtesy of Linda Perdue.

 

Humpty Dumpty, all dressed up and nowhere to go--except down!
(The castle wall appears to be a bit worn and moldy.  Compare to later photos with different color scheme.)
Oct. 1979.  Photo by and courtesy of Linda Perdue.

 

Visit the VP Shoots website

 

 

Joette Giovinco around 1980 with her daughter Ranielle at the Fairyland Railroad station.
Photo provided by Joette Giovinco.

 

 

 

The following photos of the Tampa Catholic High School Majorettes and Dancerettes at Lowry Park's Fairyland were taken by Ralph Owen Dennis and published in the TC 1982 yearbook "Crusader."  Ralph shared them in a Facebook group named "You know your [sic] from Tampa when..." some time ago and were recently brought to the attention of TampaPix by Kimi Lau-Costanzo. 

At the time Ralph posted them, he wrote "Seeing pictures of Lowry Park, I remembered that I had saved these shots of the Tampa Catholic Dance team and twirlers from 1982. I scanned them and thought I would add them here.....maybe one of the ladies is watching this group..........ENJOY!"

Kimi also provided the information about the students in the photos.  Thank you Kimi and Ralph for sharing these great photos!

The Tampa Catholic High School Dancerettes on the Rainbow Bridge to Fairyland, 1982.
Photo by Ralph Owen Dennis.

 

The Tampa Catholic High School Dancerettes at the Rainbow Bridge to Fairyland, 1982. 
Photo by Ralph Owen Dennis.

 

The Tampa Catholic High School Dancerettes and Majorettes at Lowry Park's Fairyland, 1982.
TC Dancerettes with Majorettes Left, Sabrina Posey Right, Linda Rossiter.
Photo by Ralph Owen Dennis.

 

The Tampa Catholic High School Majorettes (L) Sabrina Posey, (R) Linda Rossiter, at the "really big shoe" Fairyland, 1982.
Photo by Ralph Owen Dennis.

 

The Tampa Catholic High School Dancerettes and Majorettes at Humpty Dumpty,  Fairyland, 1982.
Photo by Ralph Owen Dennis.

 

The Tampa Catholic High School Dancerettes and Majorettes with Cinderella in her coach,  Fairyland, 1982.
Photo by Ralph Owen Dennis.

 

The Tampa Catholic High School Dancerettes on the Lowry Park "Choo choo train,"  Fairyland, 1982.
(L-R) Michelle Barreiro, Aileen DeArmas, Jama Coley, Anna Vito, Jenny Sincell, Candyce Forrester,
Lori Giglio, Myra Pita, Nga Nguyen, Christina Vasquez, Celeste Liccio.
Photo by Ralph Owen Dennis.
Thanks to Kimi Lau-Costanzo for providing the names from her TC yearbook.
Read about the history of this steam locomotive further down this page.

 

 

 

   

Cindee Haze (wearing boots) with her mom and sisters, 1987
Photo courtesy of Cindee Haze

Cindee Haze (standing, center) with her sisters, 1987
Photo courtesy of Cindee Haze

Cindee Haze (at left) with her sisters, 1987
Photo courtesy of Cindee Haze

Cindee Haze's sister, 1987
Photo courtesy of Cindee Haze

   

      

Cinderella's fairy godmother and the kiddie train, 1987, courtesy of Cindee Haze,


Lowry Park Zoo Undergoes $20 Million Renovation, Transitions from City Management to Private Organization

As the zoo collection continued to grow through the 1970s, the need to upgrade the habitats and present the animals in natural settings became an issue, the zoo facilities were in need of repair and renovation, with the animals cramped concrete quarters were so poor that the Humane Society called it “one of the worst zoos in America.”  The need was fully embraced by the Tampa bay area community, which resulted in the formation of an organization dedicated to building a first-class zoological garden.

In 1981 the Tampa Parks Department and Citizens Advisory Board called for zoo improvements. The Lowry Park Zoo Association formed at the suggestion of the Tampa Parks Department, Mayor Bob Martinez, and private citizens who shared a common vision. Its mission was to raise awareness of Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo and promote a public-private partnership to fund the renaissance of Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo. Soon after, the Zoo Association embarked on a $20 million capital campaign, and the City of Tampa committed $8 million.

.

In 1984 the Zoo Board of Directors developed a comprehensive, 24-acre zoo master plan. In 1988 the Zoo Association became the Lowry Park Zoological Society, a private, independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to the management and ongoing development of a superior zoological garden, and was no longer owned by the City of Tampa Parks Dept.

After several years of fundraising and the help and support of mayor Bob Martinez and the city of Tampa, the original Lowry Park Zoo closed with a ceremony on Monday, September 7, 1987 at 6pm for its $20 million reconstruction.  There were no admission fees for the last days of the old Lowry Park Zoo, with the new zoo expected to charge $3 for adult admission and $1.50 for students.  The amusement rides, which were not affiliated with the zoo, were closed on the final weekend.

Also on the final weekend, Reynolds Aluminum Recycling, in cooperation with radio station Q105 and Pepsi-Cola, celebrated the closing/remodeling with a "Cans for Critters" fund-raiser.  Reynolds gave free memberships to the first 7 recyclers to donate 25 lbs. or more to the campaign.  The family memberships, which were expected to go on sale in October of 1987 for $25, would admit a family to the new zoo for a year.

Over the next 3 to 4 months, animals were shifted from the old zoo to new homes, to be joined by other animals throughout the country.  A large, screened-in aviary was planned to be open the following January, featuring  100 species of birds in a walk-through exhibit.

A second portion, the Primate World, was built to display eight species of primates from chimpanzees to red-ruffed lemurs.  The third segment, the Asian Domain, was to give visitors a look at animals such as elephants, camels and leopards.

 

Death of Sheena
Sheena, the elephant queen of Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo, died of unexpected and unexplained heart failure in January of 1986.  Sheena, age 27, had been shipped to Canada's African Lion Safari in May of 1985 while her Asian Domain quarters were being prepared.  Officials had even hoped she would come home pregnant.  According to zoo director Doug Porter, "She was in her prime."

This bronze elephant is located at the entrance to the Asian domain within the Lowry Park Zoo, and is intended to serve as a memorial to Baby Sheena, who was donated to the zoo by Sumter L. Lowry, Jr. in December, 1960. Lowry intended Sheena to be a gift to the children of Tampa, who, in 1960, had not been exposed to elephants in a local setting.


Sheena,
1986, Bronze  4’ x 5’
Lowry Park Zoo
by Joyce Parkerson

 

Jan 30, 1986 Evening Independent - Sheena dies
 


A Ride to Remember - April 19, 2014, A Zoo Man's Musings
J. D. (Doug) Porter is a zoologist, an educator, and a writer who takes the unorthodox and controversial view that zoos can be good for animals – if they are done right.
 

I have been doing some reminiscing (and some writing) about the early days at the Lowry Park Zoo. I love this photo of my son Jason and the story it tells, as he sits atop Buke – a massive male Asian elephant.

 


 

1985 - Jason Porter atop Buke, the male elephant brought in to share Sheena's enclosure at Lowry Park to accompany Sheena to Canada and make her transportation less traumatic.
A Ride to Remember - April 19, 2014

     The Lowry Park Zoo, at that time, had one 24 year old Asian elephant named Sheena, who had been donated to the zoo in 1961 by the Park’s namesake** General Sumter L. Lowry, Jr. The new master plan had been designed around her and the building she inhabited, but in order to build her new facilities, she would need to be moved to another zoo for a few years. After searching far and wide, we found a good facility at African Lion Safari near Toronto Canada that would take her. They had proper facilities, other elephants, and a highly competent staff. All we had to do was figure out how to get her there. I described the process in my article for the Zoo’s newsletter in the fall of 1985.  **The park was named for Gen. Lowry's father, city commissioner Dr. Lowry, not Gen. Lowry.
     Though highly trained, Sheena had not been handled in over ten years. She had become quite unmanageable and even dangerous to those who worked around her. But after a few days with the experienced elephant handler, Charles Gray, she was performing all of her old tricks and even seemed to enjoy the change in routine and the companionship of her handler. The next problem was how to get her out of the enclosure. So complete was Sheena’s incarceration, that there was not even a gate into her enclosure. Our friendly workmen moved in with their cutting torches and bulldozers, and after nearly an hour of cutting the heavy iron rails, an opening was made in the pen.
     The next problem we faced was the uncertainty of Sheena’s reactions to her new-found freedom. Would she respond to her handler’s commands, or would she run away at the first opportunity? The moment of truth arrived. As Sheena walked out of her pen for the first time in nearly 15 years, it became obvious that she was happy to be outside and yet very responsive to her handler. She quickly gained his confidence, and was soon allowed to wander happily around and explore the zoo she had lived in for most of her life. The rest of her loading and transporting was so uneventful as to appear routine. But that was not the end of the story.
     In order to make transportation less traumatic, another elephant was brought from Canada to keep her company. A large male Asian elephant named “Buke” became the first elephant ever to share Sheena’s enclosure. Though she was coy to his advances at first and turned her back whenever he came close, she soon warmed up and remained close by his side as they explored the zoo grounds.
     Buke seemed gentle enough, responding to his handlers like an anxious child, as the two elephants wandered the property untethered. It never occurred to me, as I placed my son on his back and snapped a picture, that Buke might have a dark side. But the next time I saw him was at his home in Canada later that summer. He was in musth (a period when bull elephants are sexually active and very aggressive) and chained to a tree – ready to kill anyone who came too near.
 

 

 


The Lowry Park "Choo choo train" was a Vulcan steam locomotive built as "Florida Phosphate #2" and used in the tiny mining town of Green Bay, Florida in 1907.

 


View of Roux-Askew & Dantzler Lumber Yard on Seddon Island, April 29, 1925.
Burgert Bros. photo courtesy of the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library System
.

 

Tampa Shipbuilding & Engineering - The new company was called Tampa Shipbuilding Company, or TASCO. - (now Gulf Marine Repair, A Hendry Marine Industries Company) 1800 Grant St.

By 1920, the Dantzler Lumber & Exporting Company out of Moss Pt., Miss., had leased the shipbuilding plant on the property of the Tampa Shipbuilding & Engineering Company in Tampa where it was in the business of building and repairing wooden ships.

In the mid-1920s the Roux-Askew Dantzler company had docks and a lumber yard on Seddon Island.

In March of 1933 the Vulcan locomotive was sold to the Dantzler in Tampa and renumbered 1147. 

After the No. 1147's career hauling lumber for Dantzler it was sold in 1955 to Sol Walker & Co., a huge scrap metal salvage business located at Adamo Dr. & 34th St. in Tampa. 

Solomon "Sol" Walker was born in St. Louis and came to Tampa in 1925 at the age of 10.  He was the owner/operator of Sol Walker & Co. for 55 years, the owner of Stalnaker Farm and Ranch Supply Limited, and the owner of Gulf Coast Recycling. 

When Walker bought No. 1147 from Dantzler, it was very likely still on Seddon Island because the tracks across Sparkman Channel at the shipyards were of narrower gauge so it couldn't be used there.  Instead, Walker used an old switch engine and cars that were already at the shipyards to haul his scrap between his salvage lot and the docks where they loaded and unloaded.

Walker, who was in business with his half-brother Irving "Izzie" Oster, gave or sold the locomotive to the city.  It is not known at this time if it was with the intent for it to be used at Lowry Park, but that's where it went next.  The locomotive was still in operable condition.

Groundbreaking for new synagogue. 1968.
L to R: Elizabeth Berger, Leo Levinson, Manuel Aronovitz, Sol Walker, Elaine Levinson, Bob Levinson.
 State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory.

Eventually, probably around 1984 (when the plane was removed) to 1987 when the zoo closed for its major renovation, the engine was sent back to Sol Walker Salvage.  Only then it was no longer usable.  Much of the vital parts were stripped off while at the park, as well as lack of maintenance to damage due to visitors climbing on it.

There was an interest from Caribbean islands and South American entities to purchase it from Walker, but when they saw the condition it was in, they changed their minds.

Around 1995 to 1998, when Walker went out of business, the engine was still at the salvage yard.  There were many times the engine came close to being cut apart with torches and scrapped.  But instead, it appears that the engine was given or sold to the Florida Gulf Coast Railroad Museum in Parrish, FL,  then to its present location near Zephyrhills Festival Park. (2800 Gall Blvd Hwy 301.) 

The details of the events during the museum years are currently being pursued.  The information on the use of the locomotive from Dantzler to Sol Walker to the park and back to Walker was provided to TampaPix by Kimi Lau-Costanzo who obtained it in a "somewhat difficult to follow" account from a former employee (Robert E. Bolesta) who worked for Sol Walker up until the mid 1990s.   An attempt to reach Mr. Bolesta for clarification has so far been unsuccessful.

The Tampa Catholic High School Dancerettes on the choo choo train,  Fairyland, 1982.
(L-R) Michelle Barreiro, Aileen DeArmas, Jama Coley, Anna Vito, Jenny Sincell, Candyce Forrester,
Lori Giglio, Myra Pita, Nga Nguyen, Christina Vasquez, Celeste Liccio.
Thanks to Kimi Lau-Costanzo for providing the names from her TC yearbook.


Photo by Ralph Owen Dennis.


 



Photo posted by disneymamom at Viewbug.com
June, 2013


 

 

The train in its current yellow color is now located on the east side of US 301 in front of Festival Park. Just about one mile south of Chancey Rd in Zephyrhills. The festival location "Zephyrhills Auto Events is 2738 Gall Blvd, Zephyrhills, FL 33541.  2012 photo from the Florida Railroad Museum.

 

 


Undated photo from Florida Steam Locomotives.  Notice the red wheels and better overall condition.

 

 

 

 

Undated photo from
Florida Steam Locomotives

 

 

 

 

 

Undated Google Street view, probably the earliest of all these photos, judging by the apparent condition.


Current Google street view from Gall Rd.

 

 

 

Current Google street view from Gall Rd.

 

 

THE NEW ZOO AND FAIRYLAND WALK AT FUN FOREST

The rejuvenated first phase of the revamped zoo opened on March 5, 1988 with a Free-Flight Aviary, Asian Domain, Primate World and a Children's Village/Petting Zoo. 

Fairyland returned, along with the original rainbow bridge entrance (without the large pool), as the Fairyland walk at the "Fun Forest," with many of the original storybook character statues having been cleaned up, or repaired and repainted, and possibly even replaced or removed. 

Riding a camel at the newly opened zoo, Mar. 6, 1988.

TBT archives photo courtesy of Kimi Lau-Costanzo

 

More than 614,000 people visited the Zoo during its first 12 months after reopening.

Ralph Alday of Tampa's City Parks Dept. puts finishing touches on the newly refurbished Fairyland walk at Lowry Park, Sept. 1989. 
Photo from Historic Images.

By February of 1992 the newly renovated park consisted of the zoo, amusement park, Fun Forest with Fairyland walk, and new Children's Museum (formerly Safety Village) adjacent to it. Admission to the Lowry Park Zoo was $5.50 for adults, $3.50 for children 4 to 12 and $4.50 for the elderly (children 3 and younger free). The newly built zoo had 1,600 animals in enclosures designed to resemble native habitats, and attractions included a 175-bird aviary and an underwater view of a manatee. There was also a children's petting zoo and the fountain at the entrance where they could wade.

Fun Forest at Lowry Park had 19 rides as well as a playground and the "Fairyland" walk.  Admission to the amusement park was free, but it took three tickets to board each of the rides; individual tickets cost was 40 cents, a 20-ticket book was $6.95 and an all-day wristband was $9.95.

(1992 NY Times article:  What's Doing In Tampa, by Tampa resident Sara Kennedy; Published: February 2, 1992.  Recent zoo history from Lowry Park Zoo website.  Sept 4, 1987 Visit the Zoo Before the Gates Close  Conclusion) 

 

Reggie Bonner Jr. in 1987 and 1989 with two of the three little pigs.
Photo courtesy of Melissa Bonner.

 

 

A small picnic and concession stand area at Lowry Park looking like it was overlooked with the zoo improvements.  This may have been an area of Fairyland destined for removal.

July 21, 1988

Tampa Bay Times Archives photo
courtesy of Kimi Lau-Costanzo

 

Jaime Kile at the Little Red Schoolhouse, "Fairyland Walk at Fun Forest" circa 1990-91.
Photo courtesy of Jaime.

Jaime Kile at the 3 Little Pigs "Fairyland Walk at Fun Forest" circa 1990-91. Photo courtesy of Jaime.

   

  

Staci Randall with the little pig who made his house from brick, 1992.
Photo courtesy of her aunt, Jeannette Tamborello

   

Mary Salario's daughter, Katie, 1995.
Photo courtesy of Mary Lang Salario.

Mary Salario's daughter, Katie, 1995.
Photo courtesy of Mary Lang Salario.

   

Tina Follick at Fairyland Walk, 1995, courtesy of Tina.

Tina Follick at Fairyland Walk, 1995, courtesy of Tina.

   

Tina Follick at Fairyland Walk, 1995, courtesy of Tina.

 

Tina Follick at Fairyland Walk, 1995, courtesy of Tina.

 


Tina Follick at Fairyland Walk, 1995, courtesy of Tina.

 

  
Fun Forest with Fairyland walk, 1996

Images below are screen shots from this You Tube video (starting a little after 6 minute mark) taken in 1996.
Here you can see the repainted rainbow bridge and some of the Fairyland characters still in use.

 

The large fountain was reduced considerably.

Wheelchair ramp access to the Fun Forest  
     

Same structure as the original bridge The foot of the Rainbow bridge Cinderella's pumpkin coach and horses
     

Hickory dickory dock Toadstools and little red schoolhouse Three Little Pigs homes
     

House made of brick Toadstools and partial view of Old Lady's shoe New Magic Dragon roller coaster/cars.
 

Fairyland (at the Fun Forest) and the Rainbow Bridge were removed by the Zoo sometime after 1996 and probably by early 1997 due to space needs for creation of the "Zoo School" and safety concerns, respectively. The city deemed the Rainbow Bridge to be a "safety hazard" and so it was demolished.  The storybook character figures were, for the most part, sent to a City of Tampa storage lot where they sat deteriorating for about 20 years, forgotten, or so it seemed. The amusement park rides were auctioned off, as seen in this 1997 brochure from eBay.

   

 

          

 

The land formerly utilized by Fairyland/Fun Forest became the Florida Environmental Education Center (or Zoo School), which serves children, teachers and parents with innovative environmental education programs year-round. Tampa resident and Lowry Park Zoological Society of Tampa board member Patricia C. Sullivan, a former school teacher, provided a $1 million leadership gift for the construction of Zoo School. Additionally, the Frank E. Duckwall Foundation provided a $500,000 grant and is the namesake for the Lecture Hall.

In 2008, construction was completed on an annex that provides additional classrooms for expanding youth/teen programs and office space. The new annex was made possible by Patricia C. Sullivan, the Thomas Family, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and U.S. Senator Mel Martinez.

BUT FAIRYLAND WAS NOT FORGOTTEN BY TAMPA'S YOUNG AT HEART

 

Read about Saving Fairyland

 



Yours truly at Lowry Park; sitting on the benches at the band shell, Easter Sunday, April 18, 1965.


Lowry Park & Fairyland

Herman - King of the Zoo

 

Safety Village / Children's Museum / Kids City

 

Dr. Bragg's Fantasia Golf

 

Saving Fairyland!

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