Location: Boca Raton, Florida
Date of Opening: March 10th, 1953.
Date of Closing: September 4th, 1961.
When it was opened in 1998, Disney’s Animal Kingdom was heralded as a cutting-edge free range animal park. However, it wasn’t the first, but perhaps its predecessor, Africa U.S.A. had long been forgotten by the masses. Opened in 1953, it was the realized childhood dream of a man named John Pederson. He wanted to make the dead town of Boca Raton famous, and so set out to make his dream of a cageless zoo a reality.
The park featured many different animals from the African Savana, and they were allowed to roam free through a large plain. Guests to the park could pay $1.50 to take a ride on a tram that would guide them through the enclosure, and allow them to see the animals in a natural environment. The park was also home to the famous Watsui Geyser, and a large lagoon. Legend has it that Walt Disney himself fancied buying the park before his death.
However, things began to look grim for the park. It’s founder, John Pederson found himself locked in political battle after political battle, struggling to keep his dream afloat. He eventually sold the park to get away from the stress, but returned to see it to its end. There were several developers vying for the property as development in the area expanded. In 1961, the animals were auctioned off, and the land sold. It became the Camino Gardens subdivison, and an era was over.
However, a small park remains on the site to remember it, along with the remainds of the geyser and a sign commemorating Pederson’s accomplishments.
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