This Florida attraction has roots that run deep. To step into Sarasota Jungle Gardens is to take a step back into time. More than 70 years back in time.
Sarasota Jungle Gardens first came into being in the early 1930s when a local newspaperman by the name of David Breed Lindsay purchased 10 acres of land just west of U.S. 41 with grand plans to develop the virgin subtropical jungle into a botanical garden. A friend and neighbor, Pearson Conrad who was the owner of an adjacent nursery, shared those same dreams and suddenly a larger plan emerged as Conrad charted streams, planned lakes and provided additional plantings from his nursery.
Importing thousands of tropical plants, trees and flowers from all over the world, hand picked because they would flourish harmoniously with native species, the Gardens gradually began to take shape. Some of our prized possessions include the rare Australian Nut Tree, a Bunya Bunya tree, the largest Norfolk Island pine in Florida, Bulrush, Strangler Figs, Royal Palms, Selloums, Banana Trees, Peruvian Apple Cactus, Staghorn Ferns and native Red Maples, Oak Trees and Bald Cypress.
In 1936, as the owners began noticing a number of people wandering daily through the now somewhat manicured jungle, the duo began charging an admittance fee of 10 cents for children and 35 cents for adults. On New Year's Eve 1939, Sarasota Jungle Gardens officially opened to the public as an attraction beckoning locals, as well as tourists, eager to view the beautiful vegetation.
Over the years, the South Florida attraction changed hands several times. In 1971, Sarasota Jungle Gardens was purchased by Arthur C. Allyn. His daughter, Dorothy Tinney, and her family operate the Gardens today.
During the earlier years, several of the owners and their families lived on the grounds, residing in what is now the Flamingo Cafe. The Koi Pond, located just outside the snack bar, served originally as a swimming pool and was connected to the estate house. Eventually, a new admission building and gift shop were built.
In the early 70s, the Gardens introduced the first Exotic Bird Show featuring Macaws and Cockatoos trained by prison inmates from California and aptly dubbed: The Jail Birds. Some of these original birds still participate in the bird shows today.
Over the years, Sarasota Jungle Gardens has evolved into one of the area's most historical and beautiful attractions.
It has been the inspiration for children's books and has provided the backdrop for countless fashion photo shoots, not to mention numerous documentaries and television shows. Community outreach programs include those in local schools, nursing homes and special events.
Truly, Sarasota Jungle Gardens has touched the lives of millions and continues to do so each and every day.