Miracle Strip Amusement Park opened in 1963 with the Starliner Roller Coaster as it’s main attraction. Located across from the beach in Panama City, the park did not look like your average theme park and resembled the traditional seaside boardwalks of the past. The park featured many of the typical rides you would find at any carnival nowadays including scramblers, bumper cars, a carousel and a haunted house. Some of the rides, such as the Abominable Snowman and Dante’s Inferno, were enhanced by placing them in dome structures and adding lighting effects, temperature changes, smoke effects and music.
In 2003, it was announced that the park would close the following year due to lack of interest, loss of money and increased expenses to keep the rides maintained and running. Many of the rides were either sold off or disappeared, some being found and reopened under the same name. Any of the remaining structures or rides that weren’t sold were later demolished.
In 2008, Pier Park opened down the street where Miracle Strip once stood, an open-air dining, entertainment and shopping mall. Teddy Meeks, a wholesale jeweler, sought to put a carousel in Pier Park. After much searching, in 2009, he found not only a carousel, but the original carousel from Miracle Strip which has been sitting in storage on the old Miracle Strip property since 2004.
After a year in operation and officially named “Miracle Strip“, Pier Park approached Meeks with the idea of adding a ferris wheel. He looked for the park’s original ferris wheel which he found out was moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee and was also not for sale. Deciding on the next best thing, Meeks found an exact make and model of the ride in California. Soon after, the last two remaining rides from the Miracle Strip property, a 1985 Zamperalla Balloon Race and a 1952 Allen Herschell Red Baron plane ride, were bought and added to Pier Park.
In October 2010, news outlets reported that Teddy and Jenny Meeks along with two other partners had bought the Starliner roller coaster for $2 million and has started efforts to rebuild it. More recent sources though have reported that the Starliner sits in storage in Palmetto, FL and is still up for sale as of September 2012. The current owner, Ridewerks, have considered donating the Starliner train to the National Roller Coaster Museum but also said that another possible option was that Pier Park was still interested in maybe one day rebuilding the coaster.
Photographer: Jason Koertge
Year Taken: 2009
Official Website for the Miracle Strip revival park – Miracle Strip at Pier Park
Documentation of the Starliner’s timeline from 2004 to the present – Johnnyupsidedown.com
The Haunted Castle is currently operating at – Terrortorium.com
Photo(Nomeus, 2007 – Flurbex.com): Orlando first festival marketplace, it featured specialty shops, restaurants and entertainment.
The Mercado Shopping Village opened March 1986, Orlando’s first festival marketplace, which emphasized specialty shops, restaurants, and entertainment. With over 50 stores, they ranged from Old Tyme Photos, where you got your photo taken while wearing old time rags to Santa C., a shop which specialized primarily in Christmas year round.
The shopping center also featured events, for example in 1987 they had the Big Scoop Ice Cream Competition and Tasting Fair; open to all ice creams where they competed for best best vanilla ice cream, best chocolate ice cream, best ice cream dish, best ice cream drink and best far-out flavor. The shops also brought with them 15-20 gallons of ice cream to sell and the proceeds went to charity.
By 1988 though, business was waning. Merchants said it was mainly because the marketplace relied solely on tourists. In 1990, Martin Marietta Corp, owner, sold the Mercado for $42.5 million, a sale that was part of a liquidation of the company’s holding in the business park. It was managed by Ewing Southeast Realty Inc. until it was purchased in 1991 by Christian Wolfer, who at the time owned four different companies. In 2002, the owners filed for bankruptcy, blaming the post-Sept.11 tourist slump for the slow business. LaSelle Bank acquired the property and auctioned it off for $18.3 million.
Photo(Nomeus, 2007 – Flurbex.com):One of the haunted houses during the Mercado’s Halloween event in 2006, “Nights of Terror”
The property was purchased by Unicorp National Developments in 2005. by that time, business was terrible. Less than a dozen shops remained; empty storefronts with broken windows were plenty and walking into a filthy bathroom was common. Unicorp hired a security firm to help combat the vandalism and crime in the plaza.
In 2006, Unicorp donated the plaza to Raw Productions, which put on a haunted house event for several weeks leading up to Halloween. Called Nights of Terror, they converted three empty storefronts and the still-operating Titanic: Ship of Dreams attraction into four haunted houses. Opening week though, they didn’t bring in the crowd they expected it to and began offering unlimited foods and lower ticket prices. Tenants complained the company brought in its own food and drinks, discouraging those who did attend to patronize their restaurants.
Unicorp announced in 2007, the Mercado would be demolished to make way for The Square, a mixture of upscale restaurants and eateries with a 424-room, 16-story hotel, dubbed Amalfi to be built first. The plan never materialized and in 2011, it was announced that a $100 million entertainment-dining-shopping district theme park called I-Drive Live would be built, including a 425 foot observation dubbed the Orlando eye, a Madame Tussauds wax museum, and a Sea Life Aquarium. As of 2013, the property is still an empty lot.
Photo(Nomeus, 2007 – Flurbex.com): Blazing Pianos, a piano bar where pianists played rock-n-roll classics.
Photo:Ramada Inn Tower during the “first look” at Walt Disney World.
The Colony Plaza Hotel was originally built as a Ramada Inn in 1968. The hotel contained a a lounge, swimming pool, tennis courts, and meeting rooms. It was also the first hotel in Orange County to receive a license to serve liquor with meals on Sundays.
The site also served as a temporary headquarters for Disney officials who hosted a press conference in 1969. As someone put it, a “giant circus tent” was set up outside the hotel and invited guests were able to preview the upcoming opening of Walt Disney World Resort. Roy Disney, along with Disney legends Card Walker, John Hench, Charlie Ridgway, and Donn Tatum signed autographs and spoke announced October 1, 1971 as the opening date. Roy told guests at the event:
“You should know that the dedication of our staff to Walt’s goals is tremendous. And I know Walt would like what his creative team is doing because these are the ideas and plans he began. Everything you will see here today is something Walt worked on and began in some way. And today, the Walt Disney organization is dedicated to carrying out these wonderful plans in Walt Disney World.”
Photo: Guests were able to view scale models, artwork and animatronic figures at the event.
As hotels started being developed to directly support Disney, the hotel declined, changing hands numerous times before it finally converting into the Colony Plaza condominium complex and a portion of that being converted into a time share in the 1990s. In 2001, the city condemned the building after malfunctioning sprinklers flooded the first four floors. Apparently, it was marketed overseas which had let it fall into disrepair.
The city attempted to demolish the structure multiple times over the years that followed but ran into legal issues related to a longtime lien on the property, as well as the building’s fractured ownership which according to the mayor, had over 500 owners. On May 9, 2009, with hundreds of spectators to witness the event, the city demolished the building.
Photo(Tantrum_Dan, 2008): The building fell into disrepair over the years after it’s condemnation.
Photos from the Disney pre-opening event which took place in 1969
Year Taken: 2009
Year Taken: 2007
Photo(Nomeus, 2006 – Flurbex.com): A shot of Spaceship Earth prior to the removal of the hand and wand.
This month marks the 30th anniversary of Disney’s second theme park here in Florida, EPCOT. Originally planned as an experimental controlled community, home to twenty thousands residents; a test bed for emerging city planning and technological ideas and creations. As he put it in his own words:
“EPCOT… will take its cue from the new ideas and new technologies that are now emerging from the creative centers of American industry. It will be a community of tomorrow that will never be completed, but will always be introducing and testing and demonstrating new materials and systems. And EPCOT will always be a showcase to the world for the ingenuity and imagination of American free enterprise. It will be a planned, controlled community, a showcase for American industry and research, schools, cultural and educational opportunities. In EPCOT, there will be no slum areas because we won’t let them develop. There will be no landowners and therefore no voting control. People will rent houses instead of buying them, and at modest rentals. There will be no retirees; everyone must be employed.”
Photo(Nomeus, 2006 – Flurbex.com): An exhibit part of the “New Global Neighborhood” post-show experience.
Walt Disney died long before he was able to see an progress on EPCOT. Though his idea for a Utopian city was set aside for the moment, plans to open a new park continued. Originally, there was much indecision among Imagineers on the park’s purpose, with some wanting it to represent present and any future technological advances while others wanted it to showcase international cultures and customs. At some point in time, the two ideas came together forming a plan similar to those of the world expos, where new technology is presented and guests are able to experience different cultures from around the world with Spaceship Earth as the centerpiece and main attraction.
Opening in 1982, Spaceship Earth was sponsored by the Bell System who had a monopoly on telephone services across the United States. In 1984, the Bell System was broken into smaller companies, with it’s parent company, AT&T, becoming it’s own company. AT&T would go on to continue sponsoring Spaceship Earth from 1984 to 2004.
In 1994, technology had drastically changed since Spaceship Earth opened and AT&T saw it as something that represented the old world, so they decided it was time for a update. Though the majority of the scenes of our history remained unchanged, those showing our current and future communication were largely updated; the script was rewritten, the theme song removed and Jeremy Irons was brought in to narrate. It was with this update that the post-show area was changed, replacing the original “Earth Station” with “AT&T’s Global Neighborhood”. The new post-show experience featured hand-on exhibits featuring AT%T’s communication technology.
Photo(Falcon’s Treehouse): Falcon’s Treehouse designed the new post-experience with the idea of combining nature with high technology materials.
In 1999, to coincide with the Millennium Celebration, AT&T once again updated the post-show. The original “Global Neighborhood” exhibits were removed and replaced with a large tree made of thick steel cable dubbed “The Network Tree” which sat atop a geodesic, transparent floor. Guests were able to see all the cables which connected to various exhibits through the tree’s branches and roots. This new post-show was renamed “The New Global Neighborhood”.
In 2003, after nearly 20-years as the sponsor, AT&T decided to end it’s partnership with Disney and subsequent sponsorship of the attraction. The “New Global Neighborhood” was removed and the area boarded up.
Photo(Nomeus, 2006 – Flurbex.com): The Network Tree as it stood years after it was boarded up.
Photo(Emily Dietrich, 2011): After a rash of vandalism and theft at the home, it was boarded up, though that didn’t stop someone from kicking the door off it’s hinges.
Nestled into the coast of the Indian River Lagoon, where south Florida and central Florida first start to merge, sits an incredible historical house – once undoubtedly one of the most beautiful gems of the area – in an incredibly depressing state of disrepair.
Built circa 1900 by William Robinson, the large, two-story family home was a gorgeous example of Folk-Victorian architecture. Boasting a balcony fully crossing the front of the home and complete with intricate and ornate details, bay windows on the first and second floor, and a matching garage and doghouse, this family home has sat quietly for the last several years after its last owners abandoned it post-hurricane Frances in 2004 when it was deemed uninhabitable. The home has been in foreclosure since 2008, however, in the same year St Lucie County voted in favor of designating the William Robinson house as an exceptional historic resource. With such a designation, the owners would be able to receive a considerable amount of assistance to help with the maintenance – yet the home still sits, silently, in shambles. It is currently the only home in St Lucie County’s historic register.
Photo(Emily Dietrich, 2011): The ceiling is collapsing and there are holes throughout the entirety of the home.
It is apparent that the last owners had suffered a family tragedy before abandoning the home. At the last visit, the home was still full of all sorts of trinkets and treasures from the life that they left behind, most of which are, unfortunately, incredibly weather damaged or destroyed. Family photos, both old and new, are littered across the floors. Newspapers, books, magazines and personal papers are also abundant, spilling out of boxes and scattered from room to room. The tiny kitchen is completely stripped, and vandals have begun to mark the place with random bits of graffiti. The floors are broken, weathered, and soft; upstairs is a real hazard, with some spots too dangerous to continue past. The most gripping part of the house, however, is the child’s room upstairs – still full of toys, photos, and other personal effects.
Every day in the volatile south Florida weather undoubtably seals the fate of the home just a little bit more. Every storm, big or small, is a huge threat. Being right on the coast is certainly not helping it either, with the salt water breezes coming from the estuary that it sits directly across from. Everyone who knows the house seems to hope that it can be saved somehow, although with every passing day the outlook seems to be more and more bleak, even at best.