Photo by Nomeus, 2006 - Flurbex.com

Jungleland Zoo


Photo(Nomeus, 2006 – Flurbex.com): The old Jungleland Zoo sign has seen better days.

Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway in Kissimmee, Florida is sometimes known as it’s “tourism corridor”, which features many tourist attractions and businesses. Competition is tough along the stretch, and as competing with nearby Walt Disney World makes it even more difficult, it wouldn’t be too hard to wonder how many attractions have been lost over the years. So far, we have covered a futuristic home, a Communist-run amusement park, and now the home of the world’s second largest alligator.

One of the more distinct attractions in the area, Jungleland Zoo can be spotted by the 126-foot long alligator which sits prominently in front of the Gator Motel. For years, the Jungleland gator was the largest gator in the world until Swampy was built at an amazing 200-feet long, at Jungle Adventures in Christmas, Florida.

Photo Courtesy of the State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory
Photo(State Archives of Florida; Florida Memory, 19-): Alligatorland Safari Zoo.

But as cool as that gator is, this article isn’t about it, but about the zoo just beyond it. Back in 1970s, Alligatorland Safari Zoo opened at the site where Jungleland Zoo now sits, and featured over 1600 exotic animals and birds. Proving that competition was tough, in 1982, Gatorland Zoo filed suit against Alligatorland for attempting to build a strikingly similar entryway to theirs that resembled a gator’s open jaws, which Gatorland had since the 1960s.

Around 1985, the state of Florida came under fire over the mistreatment of animals in private attractions, labeling zoos such as the Brevard Zoological Park and Everglades Wonder Gardens as the worst zoos in the country. Inspections were made between March and October at the Brevard Zoo by the National Wildlife Humane Society and found that a lot of the animals were suffering “psychologically, if not physically.”

In 1990, Alligatorland Safari Zoo came under attack after they received a surprise inspection from the USDA and were charged with keeping inaccurate records, having poor sanitation and structural conditions in some of the cages, and having poor veterinary care for it’s animals. Gerald Dienhart, a veterinarian who was part of the surprise inspection, cited them after finding unsanitary amounts of aging dung in a rhesus monkey cage and balding pop-bellied pigs.


Photo(Nomeus, 2006 – Flurbex.com): Inside the main building, at the entrance to the zoo.

Darren Browning, the owner of Alligatorland, refused to acknowledge the USDA’s right to regulate his business, claiming the violations never existed or were quickly corrected and refused to pay a $1,500 fine. He characterized the fine as nothing more than a ploy by the USDA to punish them for refusing to erect a $20,000, 8-foot tall security fence to keep the wild animals from escaping.

USDA inspector Richard Overton, who supervised the inspections, said the security was unrelated to the fine but an important issue. “In the middle of the Okefenokee Swamp, if they didn’t have any dangerous animals or a lot of people around, then they wouldn’t need an 8-foot fence”, said Overton in an interview with the Orlando Sentinal, noting that dangerous animals, such as spotted hyenas, are kept there. “If one of those got loose you wouldn’t want to have any children close by.” It would be proven in later years, that someone doesn’t believe in the term, “Learn from history, or suffer the consequences.”

Browning chose to fight the fine at a two-day USDA hearing in November 1992, representing himself because he said he knows as much about exotic animal care as USDA inspectors, and it would have cost too much to hire an attorney. He attacked the competence of the USDA inspectors, asking if they knew the difference between old monkey dung and dung from a constipated monkey. After losing consequent battles in court against the USDA, the Brownings sold the property in 1995.


Photo(Nomeus, 2006 – Flurbex.com): A boardwalk stretched over the swamp, making it safe to view the alligators below.

Jungleland Zoo opened in 1995 and housed over 300 exotic animals, which is a large drop from Alligatorland, which featured 1600 animals. The zoo was best known for it’s big cat shows which showcased different species of cats, from bobcats and lynxes, to Bengal and Siberian tigers.

During the winter of 1997, days of rainfall flooded the swamp, making it a dangerous situation for the caged animals. On December 15, while handlers tried to raise the cage of their 450-pound lioness above flooded ground, it escaped into the marsh. A search for Nala, named after a character from “The Lion King, was quickly initiated, ranging over the swamp along Hwy 192. Though wildlife agents were equipped with an infrared sensor attached to a helicopter and over 20 agents on the ground with tranquilizer guns and rifles, a canopy of lush vegetation and 4-foot-deep water, made it difficult to track her. Residents and tourists were put on alert, but Jungleland officials claimed that lioness was “hand-raised, declawed and very sociable”, basically saying she wouldn’t hurt a fly unless told to do so.

Finally after two days, she was spotted just a few hundred yards from her cage at the zoo. Dr. James Barnett, a veterinarian, moved in but upon being spotted, Nala hissed and made an attempt to hide under some bushes. Dr. Barnett fired two shots, missing with the first shot but finding it’s mark on the second. It took five minutes for Nala to become sedated, where Dr. Barnett injected her with more tranquilizer.


Photos(Nomeus, 2006 – Flurbex.com): Various animal cages still remain at the site of the former zoo.

In late-2002, the zoo removed it’s animals from public view and had set all of their gift shop stock at 50% off. The owners claimed they were another victim to the post-9/11 economy, but the local Channel 6 News reported the zoo was being investigated by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U.S. Department of Agriculture for possible violations of the Animal Welfare Act. A surprise inspection in June by state inspectors said the “facility is suffering from a severe drainage issue,” noting rotted cages and inadequate fence heights. The inspectors also reported that “the animals looked healthy.”

A letter was taped to the window of the gift shop by the owners, while also claiming they had sent a copy of the letter to President Bush. The letter read in part, “This treatment by Channel 6 smacks of an old time lynching,” and “Animals do not breed in places they are not comfortable in and all our breeding pairs produce here at Jungleland.”

Photographer: Nomeus
Year Taken: 2006
Website: FLURBEX

Resources
November 1985 – Florida Zoos called Places of Suffering

February 1993 – Gator Zoo Wrestling Bureaucracy

May 1993 – Monkey-Dung Dispute

December 1997 – Lion eludes Florida officials

December 1997 – Escaped lion returned to zoo

A blog article written by one of the grandchildren of Darren Browning, about their time at Alligatorland Safari Zoo.

Photo by Nomeus, 2011 - Flurbex.com

Park View Inn


Photo(Nomeus, 2011 – Flurbex.com): The hotel’s pooldeck was it’s finest features, surrounded by thick walls and palm trees.

At the corner of Main and State Streets in Jacksonville sits the Park View Inn, previously one of the city’s premier lodging destinations is now undergoing demolition after years of neglect and contamination. Originally the “Heart of Jacksonville Motor Hotel” built in 1966, the hotel was condemned in 1999 because of fire damage and multiple code violations, including electrical and fire code hazards, making the building dangerous to live in.

In a span of seven months, two fires were deliberately set while a third fire remained undetermined as to how it started. Inspections afterwards found the hotel didn’t have a working fire alarm, had exit doors chained shut which would prevent people from escaping, electrical wires protruding from walls and overhead lighting, missing or broken fire extinguishers, and defective smoke detectors.

In 2000, a study made by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection found tar residuals underneath the hotel, barring any current or future plans for redevelopment of the property. The coal gasification plant which operated on the site between the 1880s and the early 1900s had no real regulations to protect the public from contamination.

After it’s abandonment, the former hotel became a haven for transients and vandals. Throughout the years, many fires have been set due to transient camping inside. In 2006, the property owner presented a plan to convert the old hotel into a housing facility for students, but the plan quickly fell through as the real estate market collapsed soon after. In 2010, the city planned to demolish the building but stopped due to a proposal made by the property owners to convert the building’s first floor into storefronts while demolishing the top floors. Floors 2-5 would be demolished and a parking deck will be built on top of the first floor, which is currently the original parking garage built in the 60s.

Demolition of the hotel was completed September 2011.


Photo(Nomeus, 2011 – Flurbex.com): Subsequent fires have been the main cause of the damages to the building.

Photographer: Nomeus
Year Taken: 2011
Website: FLURBEX

Archive Photos

Photo by Nomeus, 2008 - Flurbex.com

Southeastern Academy of Travel and Tourism


Photo(Nomeus, 2008 – Flurbex.com): A former Ramada Inn, it was converted in 1976 to make way for the school.

The Southeastern Academy of Travel and Tourism was originally opened in Orlando, offering two-year associate’s degree programs in business, computer and other professional fields. It was only temporary as their primary location was being renovated. In 1976, they moved into their new building situated on 31-acres of land, a converted Ramada Inn built in the late-1960s located just off the Florida Turnpike.

The school operated until May 31, 2001, when the school was forced to close down due to financial issues. At the time of it’s closing, the school had 235 students attending, with many students claiming that the school still owed them tuition reimbursements. Students received copies of their transcripts and financial aid records as well as receiving full credit for courses they were currently attending. Other students recieved thier diplomas if they were to graduate after the quarter.

The financial issues the school had stem back to a court hearing, which found them guilty of not filing a closeout audit and not properly accounting federal funds for the 1999-2000 and 2000-2001 award years. The judge ordered that Southern College and Southeastern Academy repay to the United States Department of Education the sum of $5,555,682.46 and $5,069,550.00, respectively; in other words, a sum of money the school didn’t have.

In November 2002, Positive Directions Alliance, a non-profit organization that provided housing, counseling and job training to homeless and other deprived individuals, began operating at the former school. Six months later, it’s residents were forced to vacate the premises after electricity to the property was cut off due to an outstanding fee of $26,000 to Kissimmee Utility Authority. At this time, the property was still in the hands of Southeastern Academy, with the possibility that the building was leased out to Positive Directions Alliance.


Photo(Nomeus, 2008 – Flurbex.com): Remnants of the Christian organization that occupied the building around 2004.

Southeastern Academy declared bankruptcy and the property was acquired by Super Stop Petroleum Inc. in 2003. Around 2004, Super Stop Petroleum leased the property out to the Kissimmee Christian Academy(KCA). Late that same year, the KCA filed a lawsuit against Super Stop Petroleum, claiming they were harassed off the property by having their electricity, water, and sewer services cut off and then sent a erroneous bill against the provisions of it’s lease. Though, remnants of a church organization could be found at the abandoned school, it’s history goes deep into conspiracy at this point.

Pastor Lee Wasson, who runs the KCA, believes it is so Super Stop can establish it’s own organization, Universal Heritage Foundation(UHF), a group known for its hate speech against Christians and Jews. He also said that the UHF invited speakers to it’s mosque, describing suicide bombers as “martyrs“, and call for the imposition of Sharia law in the U.S. He also claims that the UHF have been in charge of other mosques and schools that have been under investigation or have had arrests and raids.

According to this site, the Universal Heritage Foundation is run by Zulfiqar Ali Shah, a person with a long history with managing extremist Muslim organizations. Shah has had many dealings with Mohammed Javed Qureshi, who runs Super Stop Petroleum. It is also worthy to note that Super Stop is only one of 160 companies registered to Qureshi. Again, there are remnants of Islamic literature found at the former school, which provide some proof that an Muslim organization occupied the building for a while, but the rest is up to debate.


Photo(Nomeus, 2008 – Flurbex.com): A wave of vandalism swept through the school following it’s abandonment.

The building sat vacant for years and it would be around 2008 when the vandalism on the property would begin. Though a fence was erected around the property, officials and neighbors seem to not pay attention to who comes and goes off the property. Chunks of the walls and ceiling litter the floor, the landscape is terribly overgrown, and the graffiti on the walls is what you’d expect from kids. Much of the building has been on fire at some point, including the main lobby and many of the dorm rooms. In October 2009, a storage building located behind the school which contained textbooks, school materials and even a truck was set ablaze. Even though the property is currently on the market for $2.5 million, vandalism there remains an issue.


Photo(Nomeus, 2008 – Flurbex.com): This storage building, located behind the school, was set on fire in 2009.

Before & After Comparisons

Photographer: Nomeus
Year Taken: 2008
Website: www.flurbex.com