YESTERYEAR’S FUN SPOTS — Billing itself as “The Coney Island of the South,” Dixieland Park opened in 1907. Featuring Alligator Joe Campbell, ostrich races, electric fountains, burros, bands and theater productions, the sprawling complex drew hordes of tourists & locals, many of whom took the ferry from the end of Main Street over to Dixieland. The theme park and ostrich farm sprawled over 30 acres of riverfront property on the Southbank, in the vicinity of today’s Hilton Hotel.
Among its myriad attractions, Dixieland featured a 160-foot roller coaster, a Figure Eight ride, a toboggan, a “laughing gallery,” a “House of Troubles,” and a large merry-go-round called “The Flying Jenny,” which boasted 56 wooden animals. Customers could ride ostriches, watch them race, and buy ostrich feathers in the souvenir shop. At night, almost 20,000 electric lights illunated the park. Babe Ruth once played baseball at Dixieland, and the famous bandleader John Phillips Sousa gave a concert. Many movie companies filmed their silent flicks there. These included jungle pictures, which brought elephants, tigers, camels, and horses to the ostrich park.
Indeed, more than just big birds entertained guests at Dixieland & other local attractions. Do any of these appeal to you? — Alligators, dog & pony shows, lion wrestling, hot air balloons, parachute jumps, comedy acrobats, high-wire performers, & vaudeville acts. On muggy days at Jax ostrich parks, visitors could refresh themselves at a swimming pool and bathing beaches. Dixieland also featured an electric water fountain.
Dixieland & other ostrich parks faded around the time of World War I. In the case of Dixieland, it was renamed the Florida Alligator Farm after it acquired numerous alligators. By the 1930s, the entire collection was sold to some folks in St. Augustine, which is now the St. Augustine Alligator Farm.
~written by Glenn Emery