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The Beginning of The Beginning by Sean2012-10-02 18:18:23


I thought it would be kinda fun to see what the the original function of some of the buildings in “The Beginning” and “Fun Town” were before LL purchased the park. These areas of the park originally opened in December of 1979 and were designed to resemble a small antebellum town called “Southern Crossroads”. While the names and exteriors of the buildings have changed over the years, the layout of these areas has remained practically the same for over 30 years. Here’s a brief history of some of the more prominent buildings in these areas:


This building was originally called the “Magic Lantern Theater”. The theater seated 500 people and several times a day a resident magician would put on a 20-minute magic show. In the 1990s, this theater hosted an exotic bird show where parrots would perform tricks such as riding a bike and slam dunking a mini-basketball. This building’s theater days ended in 2004 after Kent pruchased the park and converted it into a retail venue called “Jubille Mercantile”.


This building was originally an open-air restaurant called “County Fare”, a 500-seat covered dining area featuring 10 separate themed kiosks of taste-tempting foods. The seating partially encircled a bandstand where Dixieland music groups and live-character shows would perform while visitors dined. While the seating was covered overhead, the sides were open to the air which meant this restaurant wasn’t climate controlled.

In the summer of 1985, the park’s only air-conditioned restaurant (Garden Plaza Restaurant) was closed due to a sinkhole forming under it. In response to this, park officials had the County Fare’s dining area glass-enclosed and topped with a glass dome which is still there today. County Fare reopened as an air-conditioned venue in December of 1985 and was renamed “Village Fare.” Kent later changed the name to “Jubilee Marketplace”.


This building was originally contained a five-room house of illusion called “Legends of the South”. The exibit was a computerized multi-media presentation in five parts based on popular legends of some of the South’s most intersesting people and events. It featured disappearing people, swamp scenes, pirates, and other animated persons of legendary southern fame.

In 1984, the “Legends of the South” exhibit was removed to make way for a new model train exhibit called “Whistlestop USA”. The model railroad was originally built for a Christmas display on the grounds of the Naitonal Enquirer newspaper in Lantana, Florida, in the late 1970s and was donated to Cypress Gardens in 1984. The railroad eventually grew to include 1,100 feet of track, 400 buildings, and 4,800 figures and was maintained by a group of volunteers called the Cypress Model Railroad Society. The detail of the railroad was stunning as guests watched multiple trains wend their way through a Florida coastal city, rural towns, towering mountains, Chicago stockyards, and the frozen North.

In the late 1980s, Whistlestop USA was renamed Cypress Junction and kept that name until 2004 when it was renamed Trains, Planes, and Automobiles. The model railroad exhibit entertained guests for over 20 years until it was permamently taken off display in 2008…reportedly because of theft of many of the miniatures. After the closing of the model railroad exhibit, the buildng was used to house an antique radio display known as “When Radios Were Radios”.


This building was originally called the “Gardens Cinema Theater”, an 800-seat theater that contained a three-story, 180-degree curved screen. The 13-minute films would include roller coasters screaming around the track, speeded-up trolley cars whipping through San Francisco, power boats blasting through Cypress Gardens’ canals, and interstate tarffic moving at staggering proportions in a cinematic attempt to alter the realty of viewers.

In 1985, a 1,200-square-foot custom-made ice skating rink was installed and the theater was renamed the “Ice Palace” (Kent later changed the name to the “Royal Palm Theater”). Ice skating shows were performed in this building for over 20 years until they were discontinued in 2008 due to budget cuts. Some acrobatic/contortionist acts were also performed here for a limited time after the demise of the ice skating shows.


This buidling was originally the home of Dick Pope, Jr. The southern wing of the home was removed and the remainder of the structure was converted into a glass artisan and China shop knows as “Crystal Fare”. In 1988, in order to increase the number of air-conditioned dining venues, Crystal Fare was converted into a 100-seat full service restaurant called “Crossroads Restaurant”. In 2004, The restaurant was changed to a southern-style buffet called “Aunt Julie’s Kitchen”.

Hope you enjoyed this stroll down memory lane. Click on the link if you want to see more pictures from 2000 & 2001.
re: The Beginning of The Beginning by Greg2012-10-02 21:16:06

Winter Haven, Florida

Master Botanist
1451 Posts
Nice post Sean, thanks! Amazing to think that these photos were only taken 11 years ago! Seems like forever since I remember seeing Cypress Gardens like that! (Actually, I think my last time before Kent bought it was in the early 90's.)

Funny that the theatre used to be a movie theatre... I always remembered it as the Ice Show Palace. And I do remember the (now demolished) dome as being the place for acrobatics. In fact, a girl I graduated high school with used to be in the act. Fun times!
Visit my YouTube channel for Legoland Adventures!
re: The Beginning of The Beginning by Sean2012-10-03 18:30:28


Happy to hear you enjoyed the post Greg. It is amazing how much has changed in just over a decade. I expect we'll see a lot more changes in the years to come.
re: The Beginning of The Beginning by Coasterjunkie2012-10-04 13:50:21

Orlando, FL

Ace Arcader
243 Posts
Thanks for posting this Sean. I remember the HO train set. I thought it was really nice to see. I think I might have some photos of it as well so I'll post them once I find them on my computer.
Life's a roller coaster, so enjoy it while you can with your hands high in the air.
re: The Beginning of The Beginning by Sean2012-10-04 18:36:49


Yeah, that HO train set was really something special. I personally find the Lego Factory tour a little boring. I think it would be better to replace the film at the beginning of the tour with a 5 minute film shot at an actual Lego factory. The film could show how an actual Lego is produced versus simulating the creation of one in the factory mockup at the rear of the building.

I would rather see the factory mockup replaced with a new model railroad where the buildings are made from Legos and the people are minifigures. It would be like a mini miniland. I think kids would enjoy looking at that much more than they do the current setup.

If you can find your old pictures Coasterjunkie, please do post them. It's always fun to look back at the rich history of this park.
re: The Beginning of The Beginning by Coasterjunkie2012-10-05 22:56:37

Orlando, FL

Ace Arcader
243 Posts

These are the only three photos I have of the model train display. It really was something to see in person. Greg also has some photos of the model train display in the Gallery under Jubilee Junction.

You can add these three photos to the collection if you want to Greg.
Life's a roller coaster, so enjoy it while you can with your hands high in the air.
re: The Beginning of The Beginning by Sean2012-10-06 19:29:55


Thanks for the pictures. I found this Youtube video that also shows the HO-scale trains in Cypress Junction. Toward the end of the video you can see the Florida Historical Railway Garden, a G-scale outdoor model train layout that used to be at the base of the Island in the Sky.
re: The Beginning of The Beginning by Ed2012-10-17 16:14:43

Merritt Island

Ski Star V
956 Posts
Considering that CG went from a senior park, to a family park, back to a senior park (for a very brief period), and then to a LL children's park - yes indeed there had to be a lot of changes. Not to mention it also went through 4 different owners during the same time. Much of that change was due to failure. So for the future let's hope for less change and much more stability with LL.
re: The Beginning of The Beginning by Sean2014-02-19 17:47:56


Here's a map from the early 1980s that shows what the Southern Crossroads area looked like shortly after it was built. The layout hasn't changed very much except for the removal of the following buildings:

Building #5: House of Names (monogram shop) which later became Myrtle's Candles.

Building #6: Baubles, Bangles & Beads (jewelry shop) which later became the Junior Belle Boutique. It was torn down by Kent due to extensive termite damage and was replaced with an open-air structure called Hickory Hollow.

Building #8: Abracadabra (magic shop) which later became the photo shop.

Click on the link above for a larger view of the map. Enjoy!
re: The Beginning of The Beginning by Greg2014-02-22 22:45:51

Winter Haven, Florida

Master Botanist
1451 Posts
Another great post, thanks Sean!
Visit my YouTube channel for Legoland Adventures!

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