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 uncaged 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 10 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 park.

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.

Other entertaining attractions were Sheena, the trained elephant, and her chimpanzee friend, Suzie.

Story from May 16, 1962 newspaper article

Conclusion of article

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


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


The butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker in a tub.
Photo courtesy of Larry Flegle

Little Miss Muffet storybook scene at Fairyland, circa 1957
Photo courtesy of Yvonne 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


Cheryl Jones and her sister Beverly Jones
circa 1980

Photo courtesy of Steve Tamargo, Cheryl's husband
Photo taken by Mr. Jones
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


The Merry Mirror Mill



Keith Hawks on the big rooster, 1967

 David Fox (middle) and mom, Feb. 1971


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

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



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

Lowry Park Fairyland characters have been stored in the hot Florida sun and rain for about
25 years by the the City of Tampa.  Help us rescue and restore them!





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

King Arthur's Castle, Fairyland Gift Shoppe


Lowry Park History - Sumter de Leon Lowry Sr. and Jr.

Dr. Sumter L. Lowry was a city commissioner who persuaded the city to purchase property for a public park in 1918.  In 1925 he donated land for a park north of downtown at Sligh Ave. and North Blvd. and the park was named in his honor.  Tampa's zoo, which began as an animal shelter in Plant Park on the banks of the Hillsborough River near downtown in 1937, consisted of a small collection of indigenous animals such as raccoons, alligators and an aviary with a variety of exotic birds. As the collection grew, the animals were moved during the term of Mayor Nick Nuccio to the more centrally located 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. This event provided the impetus for expanding and diversifying the animal collection. As the collection continued to grow through the 1970s, 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.

Sumter L. Lowry, Jr. was a prominent Florida businessman and insurance company executive.   (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.)

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.



1949 Reunion of VMI Class of 1914 alumna. 

Photo from VMI Digital Archives



He later commanded the 51st Infantry Division and retired in 1952 as a Lieutenant General. Lowry was a recipient of the Distinguished Service Medal, and commen-dations from the state legislatures of both Florida and South Carolina.

A charter member of the Institute Society, Lowey 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 rose to the rank of Lieutenant General upon retiring from the Armed Forces of the United States and 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.


Lowry Park at Wikipedia

Read about the history of Lowry Park Zoo




Cabanas on the grounds of the original park, 1935.




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.

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

Photo provided by Rick Ringer


Sheena, 1986
by Joyce Parkerson

Bronze  4 x 5
Lowry Park Zoo

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, an elephant who was donated to the zoo by Sumter L. Lowry 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 died in Jan. 1986 in an African Lion Safari in Canada where she was sent to wait out the zoo renovations.  This sculpture was installed as a visual remembrance of her in 1987.



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.

P2V-2 Neptune Navy bomber
Click thumbnail photo to enlarge


Ladies posing on the miniature train ride at Lowry Park, 1961


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.

Fairyland 1966
 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




Grimm's fairy tale's Rapunzel, locked in her tower,  waits for her hero to rescue her.
November, 1957

Postcard and brochure made from the same photo
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 at Fairyland, revealing an aquarium with plants and fish.

The lower portion of Rapunzel's castle and the moat.  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.



Children enjoying another fairy tale setting, Nov. 1957



The Ferris Wheel Caper was filmed at Lowry Park in 1962 and starred local kid's TV show host Uncle Bruce, along with Little Mike (his ventriloquist dummy) and sidekick Barney Bungelupper.  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,



Safety Village

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



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. 



At right, a miniature replica of the Tampa Police Dept. when it was located at 1710 North Tampa Street.

Photo courtesy of David Fox

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."

   Above: A local band at the Police Station, 1966


 Left:  Tampa's City Hall at Safety Village, 1966
    The Go-Karts were discontinued due to
    accidents and the need for frequent maintenance.






Through the years, the buildings were modernized, and as seen here, commercialized.

Photo from SueT of Sue90ca



Eventually, Safety Village was modernized and became "Kids City".  Its charter expired in 2008 and 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 maintain and that the new Glazer Children's Museum downtown would fill the void.

Safety Village/Kids City bites the dust

          Safety Village brochure from "The Pie Shops"

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