Known today as Sugar Mill Gardens, this twelve acres of flowering trees and native flora has a storied history.
Bongoland was a short-lived theme park that Dr Perry Sperber, a Daytona Beach dermatologist and dinosaur enthusiast created in the 1940s.
It was named for Bongo a large baboon that lived there. Sperber enlisted help from Manny Lawrence to create huge dinosaurs out of chicken wire and concrete.
Five of the dinosaurs still exist today including a triceratops, a stegosaurus and a tyrannosaurus rex. Though they are now protected as part of Florida’s heritage, their paint long gone, their bodies darkened with grime, mold, and covered in moss and spider webs.
From 1948 to 1952 it was Bongoland, a theme park with a miniature train, historic Sugar Mill ruins, a replica Seminole Village and prehistoric monsters.
Even before Bongoland, this plot of land had an intriguing history.
Patrick Dean an immigrant from the Bahamas, purchased a 995 acre piece of land in 1804 to grow cotton, rice and sugar cane. After his violent death during the first Seminole War in 1818 the plantation passed through several hands and the land was divided into smaller portions.
The mill was operated by slave labor until the fall of 1835, shortly after the Second Seminole Indian War started and continued through 1842, which caused the Sugar Mill to be pillaged.
In the 1940s. some of the land was leased to Dr Perry Sperber who had a keen interest in dinosaurs. He even published the book “Sex and the Dinosaur” which describes how modern animals can be related to the prehistoric reptiles.
This strange mishmash of exhibits wasn’t enough to draw tourists, so in 1952, just five years after it opened, Bongoland closed.
Today the dinosaurs are embedded in what has become a peaceful garden, flush with several plant collections, including magnolias, succulents and ferns.
Sugar Mill Gardens is open daily from 8:00 to 5:00 and donations of one dollar are appreciated.
Paula Garland FL Port Orange Oct 03, 2023 Abandoned Places Back in Time Nature