Modern Cities and Transform Jax share a story by Mike Goldman about the rise and fall of an early Jacksonville amusement park: Dixieland Park
Southbank high rises and parking lots now occupy the area where the Coney Island of the South once entertained Jacksonville residents and visitors.
The short-lived Dixieland Park opened on March 9, 1907 in a city still recovering from financial and emotional scars of the Great Fire of 1901. Dixieland Park billed itself as "Jacksonville's greatest resort" and "Florida's playground." Its advertisements promoted the finest merry-go-round outside of Coney Island, the best roller coaster south of New York, "more free attractions than any other park in the South" and a Dixieland band "which is the finest in the South."
Dixieland Park in 1908. (State Archives of Florida)
Dixieland Park had a 160-foot bamboo slide called the "Dixie Dewdrop." It had gardens, a theatre, a dance pavilion, a silent movie studio where legendary western star Tom Mix made films and "polite Vaudeville" which charged 25 cents and 50 cents for matinees and 25 cents, 50 cents and 75 cents for evening performances. The park had animal shows, daredevil attractions and exhibitions with motor-propelled balloons and aerial rides. It even had baby incubators, the first ever in Florida. Premature infants from surrounding areas were brought to the park for public viewing and care by trained medical personnel. The park charged a 10 cent admission fee.
The park was on 21 acres with 1,100 feet of riverfront. It was bounded on the east by Flagler Avenue and extended to what now is Prudential Drive. Immediately adjacent to the park were related attractions such as a baseball field and exposition center.
Article by Mike Goldman