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, a miniature railroad wound through Fairyland and its fascinating game reserve.  From the open cars, the visitor 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 park 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 Little 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 photo shows the original Lowry Park sign, made by John F. Cinchett of Cinchett Neon Signs, Inc. It was the tallest neon sign ever constructed in the city of Tampa, standing 42 feet tall.  The Lowry Park sign was actually a memorial cross to honor the deceased members of the Lowry family who donated the land to the city of Tampa to build the park and zoo. The photo was taken at the 1961 dedication ceremony of the sign.

Left to right are John F. Cinchett, Parks Director Frank Neff, Tampa Mayor Julian Lane and Gen. Sumter Lowry, Jr. Photo courtesy of John V. Cinchett, author of "Vintage Tampa Signs & Scenes."

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




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 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.




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



 Rainbow bridge to Fairyland, circa 1957
 Photo courtesy of Yvonne Colado

 Feb. 1971 - Photo courtesy of David Fox



Rick Ringer and sister at the Rainbow Bridge Fountain, circa 1964
Photo courtesy of Tampa Native's Rick Ringer

Keith Hawks and a popular kid at Lowry Park, 1967



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



The Merry Mirror Mill. Photo courtesy of

The old lady who lived in a shoe. Photo courtesy of

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





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


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


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 namesake 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

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.  Around 1925, after years of hard work, it became a reality, and the park was later named  in Lowry's honor, due to his efforts.  Sumter L. Lowry, Sr. died in 1934 at age 75.

In the beginning, Lowry Park was little more than 100 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. 

Original cabanas on the grounds of Lowry Park, north of Sligh Avenue in April, 1935.
Photo from Florida Memory at Florida State Archives.


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.

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/tourist attraction was an amazing story because it was built so inexpensively, even for its day -- it cost $60,000 for everything -- about 5 times the cost of an average middle class home 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. 

No city funds were ever budgeted for the project; every effort was made to keep expenses down.  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 at Sligh Ave & North Blvd. in 1957,  where it was maintained by Tampa's Parks Department.

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.


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. Named Man of the Year for 1974 in the City of Tampa, General Lowry was well known to Floridians as an outspoken right-wing conservative who was a vocal anti-integrationist and anti-communist for his entire life.

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.


Zoo Construction

Around the same time that Fairyland construction was started, work began on a small but quality zoo 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.  A former parks superintendant, the director of sanitation and several others pitched in to get Susie, the chimpanzee, and Sheena the 18-month-old baby elephant was purchased for the zoo by Gen. Sumter Lowry, Jr.

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

Susie 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 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.





Sheena the elephant

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 hitchhiker Suzie the chimp a ride, circa 1965.

Photo provided by Rick Ringer


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





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


The following photos were graciously contributed by Linda Godfrey Napier.  Her father, James Godfrey, helped build Fairyland and the character statues, as well as working as Sheena's trainer in the early years of Lowry Park.  He also trained Susie 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 training Sheena, 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 played a little piano and 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 P2V-2 Navy Bomber at Lowry Park

Special thanks to Art Walker for providing his photo of the Lowry Park plane.

Seen here around 1975 sporting a fresh red, white & blue paint job to celebrate the USA's upcoming bicentennial, for many years the drab, gray plane served as a unique "jungle gym" for adventurous kids with a yearning to climb something.  After the plane was removed, it was relocated to the St. Pete air museum (which was basically an outdoor parking lot of old planes.)  The museum, which was located by the St. Pete-Clearwater airport and the old 94th Aero Squadron restaurant, eventually fell into disrepair and closed. The aircraft were moved (dumped) in a field off of Hwy 17 south of Ft. Meade FL. Some have been moved to the MAPS Air Museum, Akron Ohio to be restored for museum display.

The Navy bomber at Lowry Park in the 1980s
Photo courtesy of Steve Cannella from FB group "You know you're from Town n Country when.."

P2V-2 Neptune Navy bomber
Click thumbnail photo to enlarge


Mary Hall and Sharon Conrad on the Lowry Park train at Fairyland, Feb. 1966
From Florida Memory State Library & Archives

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

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

People walking through Fairyland storybook setting, Humpty Dumpty, Feb. 1966 from Florida Memory State Library & Archives
 Humpty Dumpty sitting on his wall (above left) while statues of the king, a king's horse & a king's man wait for his fall.
(Note marker book on the sidewalk, to right of the king, displaying the Humpty Dumpty fairy tale.)
Background - The shoe where the old lady who had so many children lived


Children at storybook setting, Rupunzel's castle, with Willie the Whale in background, Fairyland attraction at Lowry Park, Nov. 1957.  Photo courtesy of the Burgert Brothers collection at the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library.

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


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


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.







Wanda Larcom and her sister at Fairyland.  Possibly the Sleeping Beauty or Rumplestiltskin fairytale setting.  Circa 1960s.

Photo provided by Wanda Larcom.

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

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


Children and mother looking at a storybook setting of the Little Red Hen, Fairyland attraction at Lowry Park, 1957. 
Photo courtesy of the Burgert Brothers collection at the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library.

Lowry Park storybook scene from Jack and Jill with Mary Hall and Sharon Conrad in Fairyland at the Tri-city suncoast festival, Feb. 1961.
From Florida Memory State Library & Archives


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

Keith Hawks on the big rooster, 1967

 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




Good view of the goat enclosure, "goat hill"

Nice view of the old Lowry Park landscaping

Notice a typical animal enclosure on the right, chain link fence cages.





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 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.
Stay tuned for future identification of each person.

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.

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.  Stay tuned for future identification of each person.


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 and animal shelter, the sprint car go karts, Suzie the chimp and trainer Bill O'harris,


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.
     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.


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.

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. 

The old Fairyland was restored, along with the original rainbow bridge entrance (without the large pool), returning as the Fairyland walk at the "Fun Forest" entrance, with many of the original storybook character statues having been repaired and repainted.  More than 614,000 people visited the Zoo during its first 12 months.

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 was40 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)

Fairyland (as the Fun Forest) and the Rainbow Bridge were removed by the Zoo sometime after 1996* due to space needs for creation of the "Zoo School" and safety concerns, respectively. They were sent to a City of Tampa storage lot where they've been sitting for about 20 years now. The land formerly utilized by Fairyland/Fun Forest is now 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.

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

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.

*Conclusion based on the existence of the video below.








   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.


Lowry Park Fairyland characters have been stored in the hot Florida sun and rain by the the City of Tampa for about 20 years. 





Safety Village / Children's Museum / Kid City

Notice City Hall just right of center and Curtis Hixon Hall convention center at left with blue roof.



Safety Village, U.S.A. was the City of Tampa's 1965 Christmas present to the Children of Tampa.

The kiddy-size town was designed to train pre-school, first and second grade children in traffic, home, personal and fire safety habits.

Safety Village brochure from Flickr, Jordan Smith, cardboardamerica

Boy and girl standing on sidewalk in front of Community Church, Safety Village at Lowry Park.
Color postcard from eBay.

Go Karts on street near City Hall, Safety Village at Lowry Park circa 1965.  Color postcard from eBay.

Safety Village color postcard, Police officer at main entrance, circa 1965. 
From barbaracaywood at Old Florida on Pinterest.

Many distinctive buildings of Tampa during that time were represented here in a scaled down setting.  The attraction was a popular school field trip in the 1970s. 

It was a complete city with sidewalks, paved streets, working street lights, buildings which included a hospital, school and fire station. Safety Village was located right next to Fairyland and was touted as the "World's largest FREE safety school for children."

   Local band the "Rovin' Flames" at the Safety Village Police Station, 1966.
Photo from
RICHES of Central Florida

Coaster cars (go karts) in front of Tampa City Hall at Safety Village with police officer directing traffic, 1966 from Florida Memory State Library & Archives

The Go-Karts were discontinued due to accidents and the need for frequent maintenance.
Coaster cars (go karts) in front of Tampa City Hall at Safety Village with police officer directing traffic, 1966.
Photo from Tumblr.

Children being taught road safety in the residential neighborhood at Safety Village, Lowry Park, circa 1966, Gettly images.

Tampa Police Dept. when it was located at 1710 North Tampa St. 1960s.

Photo courtesy of David Fox












P.J. Shores and her brother in front of a split-level home at Safety Village, 1960s.  Photo courtesy of P.J. Shores at the Facebook page "I support Safety Village..." etc.








June 7, 1987 St. Pete Times article, Photo by Mike Pease

The Children's Museum at Floriland Mall, Safety Village, and Kid City

The Children's Museum at Floriland Mall, 1987
Photo from Tampa Bay Magazine, Jul.-Aug. 1987


Kid City got its start as the Children's Museum of Tampa in 1986 with Marian Winters and her friend Shelley Grossbard, who previously lived in Boston, a city with a renowned Children's Museum. The Tampa Children's Museum came about as an answer to every parent's age-old question, "Where can we take our children on a rainy day?" 

"Our daughters were friends and Shelley said one day, 'Let's bring our kids to the Children's Museum and I said, 'What's that" Winters recalled. "She came from Boston. She thought there was one here."

So the two raised $18,000 and opened the Children's Museum of Tampa.  The museum's 1986-87 budget called for $68,600 in expenditures but had only $7,700 of expected incoming donations.  But the largest donation wasn't capital, it came in the form of 24,000 square feet of space in the Floriland Mall,  in a storefront given by the mall's successive owners, the Juster Development Corp. and the Davis Villamill Corp.   Marian and Shelley equipped the new museum with a bubble machine and a zoetrope. "We were hoping to have maybe 25 kids a week, and we had 300 people the first day," Winters said.  Admission was $1.


It was a place where 2 to 12-year-olds could participate and pretend to  work like their parents--with an old-fashioned telephone switchboard, or in a kid-size grocery store, post office, doctor's office, or comic strip publishing center.

Children were were to be accompanied by adults, whether parents or guardians.  The adults became kids again, playing adult roles, such as in the grocery store, where they made lists, stocked shelves, and checked out purchases.


See more photos in the newspaper article
Snakes Alive!
In March of 1988, Dennis & Carol brought their snake show to the Children's Museum at Floriland Mall to give children a closer look at them.  The Moores performed with the snakes at Busch Gardens and often took them on the road as stars of the Snakes Alive! show.  The show was an educational program designed to shed the reptiles' reputation as slimy, scary creatures and to teach children that most snakes are harmless and helpful to the environment.

The City of Tampa, having its own budget problems, was unable to donate funds to the museum, but its park director Joe Abrahams assisted in locating city property for a permanent home for the museum.  In 1989 museum backers negotiated a deal with the city of Tampa to lease Safety Village for $1 a year and in 1990 the museum relocated to the old Safety Village location north of Lowry Park.

In February of 1992, admission to the museum was $2 for adults, $1.75 for the elderly and free to those 2 and younger, with Safety Village being included as part of the museum.


Safety Village by Ryan Newman



The photos below are from 1996-97 and were contributed by Ryan Newman. 

In his "spare time," Ryan is attempting to reconstruct the original Safety Village digitally.





If you have any old photos of Safety Village, before it became Kid City in the late 1980s, please contact Ryan at his Facebook page.  You can help him bring this great old place back to life so we can once again relive our childhood memories of Safety Village, USA!

If you're not on Facebook, contact me here: 

Special thanks to Ryan Newman for providing these photos of Safety Village below.






Ryan Newman at the Safetyrailroad station, Safety Village, circa 1996-97.

Photo courtesy of Ryan Newman.









Ryan Newman at the Safetyrailroad station, Safety Village, circa 1996-97.

Photo courtesy of Ryan Newman.







Safety Village street scene, March 1997.
Photo courtesy of Ryan Newman.


Safety Village street scene, March 1997.
Photo courtesy of Ryan Newman.



Miniature model of downtown, the Hillsborough River and the harbor, Safety Village.
Photo courtesy of Ryan Newman.



Safety Village as Kid City



In January 1999, the new image of Safety Village was unveiled as Kid City: the Children’s Museum of Tampa.  In September 2001, a new toddler exhibit opened, providing two new learning environments for its youngest visitors.

The buildings were made a bit taller so children could actually go into the insurance office, fire station, radio station, McDonald's, Publix and City Hall. Kid City became home to bike safety classes, babysitting classes, Brownie troop activities — and birthday parties.

Planning for a new, larger museum began in the late 1990s, said Sandy Murman, chairman of the capital campaign that raised $20.5-million for the project. In 2004, Mayor Pam Iorio offered a downtown parcel for the museum, envisioning it as part of a cultural arts district that included a new Tampa Museum of Art, the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center and a renovated Curtis Hixon Park.

A long-range plan was completed in 2003 to establish goals for continued growth of the Museum, including acquisition of a new site, construction of new facilities, expanded programming, and fundraising to support its growth. In 2004, a feasibility study to launch a capital campaign was conducted by Ketchum fundraising consultants and a capital campaign committee was formed to raise funds for a new facility. An exhibit master plan was developed based on input from a series of focus groups made up of diverse community participants, including community leaders, parents and children.



2006 photos of Kid City below from Wamke Family at Flickr

  Building at right used to be the Community Church
Publix grocery store


  Tampa Electric Company power station


  City Hall




Main St. in front of City Hall
Photo from



Photos of Kid City 2007 contributed by Ryan Newman

If you have any old photos of Safety Village, before it became Kid City in the late 1980s, please contact Ryan Newman at his Facebook page.  He is reconstructing Safety Village digitally according to his memory of it and old photos!

You can help him bring this great old place back to life so we can once again relive our childhood memories of Safety Village, USA!
If you're not on Facebook, contact me here: 



Fire & Rescue Station at Kid City, 2007.  Photo courtesy of Ryan Newman.

Ryan in front of Tampa City Hall at Kid City, 2007.
Photo courtesy of Ryan Newman.


 The music shop (?) at Kid City, 2007. Formerly the Community Church.  Photo courtesy of Ryan Newman.


Ryan in front of the Post Office at Kid City, 2007.  Photo courtesy of Ryan Newman.



Kid City, 2007.
Photo courtesy of Ryan Newman.


The Library at Kid City, 2007.
Photo courtesy of Ryan Newman.



Kid City, 2007.
Photo courtesy of Ryan Newman.


Ryan in front of McDonald's at Kid City, 2007. Photo courtesy of Ryan Newman.



Kid City, 2007.
Photo courtesy of Ryan Newman.


The residential neighborhood at Kid City, 2007.  Photo courtesy of Ryan Newman.

Kid City Bites the Dust

Kid City's charter expired in 2008. Prior to closing its doors, Kid City, the Children’s Museum of Tampa reached over 20,000 children and families each year through exhibits, programs and services. The modest attraction that has hosted Tampa's Children's Museum for decades closed, with construction that was to start that same month on a sprawling new facility downtown at Curtis Hixon Park. Kid City bid adieu on Dec. 8, 2008 with a free open house from 1 to 8 p.m. and a closing ceremony at 6 p.m. which featured a proclamation by Mayor Pam Iorio.

Al Najjar, executive director of the Children's Museum, said closing Kid City was one of the most controversial issues the board faced when he was hired in 2007. With the buildings decaying and public funds running short, the board opted to close it. "It's not the end of an era," Najjar said. "It's the beginning of a new one." 

In Sept. of  2010 it was demolished despite the wishes and efforts of many Tampa residents and even a Facebook Group.  The city of Tampa deemed the site too expensive to take over and maintain and that the new Glazer Children's Museum downtown would fill the void.

Safety Village/Kids City bites the dust, Sept. 22, 2010.

The City of Tampa provided the Museum a land lease in downtown Tampa at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park on which to construct the facility.  The three-story, 53,000-square-foot Children's Museum was set to open in mid 2010. It planned to feature 175 exhibits ranging from a theater where children can make video recordings of their performances to a multistory tree that kids can climb to follow the path of water from the tree's roots to clouds above. The old Kid City was to become storage space for its downtown replacement. "I'm nostalgic about what we started," Winters said. "But when your children go off to college, they grow up, they mature. And that's what the museum has done."

In October, 2007, the Museum was named the Glazer Children’s Museum in honor of the Glazer Family Foundation’s lead gift of $5 million.  Construction of the building began in March 2009 and was completed in April 2010. The Museum opened its doors to the public on September 25, 2010.


Now it sits as a vacant lot overgown with weeds.
Photo courtesy of Ryan Newman.


What's Doing In Tampa, by Tampa resident Sara Kennedy, Published Dec. 3, 1989, New York Times

What's Doing In Tampa, by Tampa resident Sara Kennedy, Published Feb 2, 1992, New York Times
Original Kid City Closes, But New One Coming, Tampa Bay Times article by Janet Zink, Dec. 8, 2008.
Glazer Children's Museum History.


The Glazer Children's Museum downtown Tampa, as seen from Plant Park across the Hillsborough River, April 2, 2011.




Fantasia Golf was a 3-course, 36-hole putting course with giant, wild-imagination figures of animals
characters or buildings located on the east side of North Blvd. next to Lowry Park. 


The big Frowning Buddha at Dr. Bragg's Fantasia Golf at Lowry Park
From the 1961 Chamberlain High School yearbook "Totem."

Photo from early 1960s Lowry Park brochure


Dr. Bragg's Fantasia Golf at Lowry Park, King Kong with club, from the Jefferson High School yearbook, Monticello 1962

Dr. Bragg's Fantasia Golf at Lowry Park, King Kong with club, From postcard on eBay.

The Horrible Harry hole at Fantasia Golf, Lowry Park, circa 1970s
Color slide image from eBay

The last hole of each course featured an especially difficult challenge.  At one of them, from the tee it was straight up a steep ramp about 8 feet long, then an elevated flat green about 3 feet high, about 8 ft x 8ft. On the far side of the platform was a huge turtle facing the tee. His head swayed side to side with his mouth wide open. If you made your shot into his mouth, it went down a pipe into a special bin on the floor in the office, so you would win a ticket for a free round. But if you missed the turtle's mouth, it rolled under his shell and off the back via a different pipe and no free game.

Free game card for Fantasia Putter Golf, circa 1976-79.
Image provided by Christopher Mygrant


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

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