BREVARD HISTORY: Tropical Wonderland Park in Titusville Endorsed By Tarzan Actor Johnny Weissmuller
By Space Coast Daily // February 19, 2023
nature-centered themed park built in 1959
BREVARD COUNTY • TITUSVILLE, FLORIDA – Located on U.S. 1 just south of State Road 50 in Titusville, Tropical Wonderland was a 50-acre, nature-centered themed park endorsed by Tarzan actor Johnny Weissmuller.
Built in 1959 as “Florida Wonderland,” the park became known as “Tropical Wonderland” in 1971 when Johnny Weissmuller, star of the Tarzan movies, endorsed the park.
The park was originally opened by Herbert Clay “H.C.” Kirk and featured an old west and Indian village area, electric boat rides, train ride and many types of animals. Monkey Island was a favorite of visitors from all over.
The old western town was called Dodge City and patterned after the popular TV series of the time “Gunsmoke.” The characters included Marshal Dillon, Miss Kitty, and a Long Branch Saloon that served non-alcoholic drinks. Every hour, the town would stage a “hanging.”
According to Cliff Rouse, an actor who played the “Apache Kid” when the park was in its prime, would attract 30,000 to 50,000 guests a day.
The park has an economic downturn in the late 1960s, but with the name of the park changed to Tropical Wonderland and Weissmuller lending his name in support, the facility made a recovery as “Tarzan” made appearances to sign autographs and pictures – and this brought new positive buzz to the park.
During this time, the park featured amusement rides, food, gift shops and other fun activities. Things were looking up until Weissmuller pulled his support because of alleged animal treatment issues.
“No one knows if this was true or not, or if Weissmuller was just not happy, but there are old articles with so many animal escapes over the years it was open, and even when it closed down,” said an article in bigfloridacountry.com.
The park featured a variety of wild animals, including “Wanda” the elephant who escaped onto U.S. 1 one night, where she was struck and killed by a truck.
The almost now forgotten Florida Wonderland park was located in an area then known as Indian River City and the locals still say there is a colony of monkeys living in the surrounding woods.
With Walt Disney World’s opening in October of 1971, Tropical Wonderland closed its doors for good in 1973 and all that remains after more than 45 years are old canals, a chalet that once housed a reptile zoo and a few patches of concrete and tile floors.
After H.C. Kirk’s death in 1978, ownership of the property was passed to his son, Bob.
Another attraction, Marine Life Park, was a short-lived park built across the street on U.S. 1 from the Tropical Wonderland Park and closed around 1967. The marine park had porpoise shows, a manatee you could pet, along with rays and sea turtles. The park also included a petting zoo, boat ride and amusement rides.
Kennedy Point Yacht Club & Marina is currently located at the former Marine Life Park.
(All images are courtesy of the Florida/Tropical Wonderland Facebook page)
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