In 1903 a plumber named George Turner bought four acres of land in St. Petersburg, Florida and promptly went to work draining a lake on the property. Once the lake bottom was exposed, he planted palms, crotons and exotic plant species from all over the world. Soon he was charging admission to see his garden and one of Florida's earliest roadside attractions was born. The Gardens added exotic animals like parrots, flamingoes and monkeys in the '50s and in the '60s added the World Largest Giftshop. In the '90s with the era of roadside attractions long since passed, the city of St. Pete stepped in and took over Sunken Gardens.
Today the World's Largest Giftshop holds a children's museum and a Carrabba's Italian Restaurant. The Gardens are well maintained and some of the original plants still thrive and have grown to gigantic sizes. Traveler Palms are enormous, bougainvillea tower above oak trees and you can rest in the shade of once squat little Sago Palms. In many places the trees and plants come together overhead to create incredible outdoor rooms that maintain a sense of utter peacefulness. The amphitheatre that once held animal shows is empty as are many of the grotto-like animal cages. The site still has several large Macaws, Parrots and Flamingoes in captivity. The side of me that loves the kitsch of old Florida wishes the animal shows still existed, but I understand why the City of St. Petersburg no longer continues them. The Gardens overall is a beautiful, serene place and I'm glad the city is keeping it intact.