Atomic Tunnel

Tropicolor Fantasy
Tunnel of Fantasy

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Tropicolor Fantasy

Best known as "Beautiful Atomic Tunnel," this unusual 1950's tourist attraction was located in Port Orange, seven miles south of Daytona Beach on US 1. Built by W.R. Johnston, it was a long, white concrete building in the shape of a meandering tube, studded with 824 "port holes" (variously shaped small windows) that was designed primarily as a showcase and shop for exotic orchids. It also featured tropical birds, a monkey, and "Happy, the walking fish," a typical Southeast Asian "walking" catfish that could be prodded into flipping its way across a short dry connection from one tank to another.

Opening as "Tropicolor Fantasy, The Tunnel Beautiful" it was not exactly an immediate hit. But this was the 1950's, when the news was filled with tales of atomic bomb tests and how the atom would be harnessed to work for everyone in the new nuclear power plants that were popping up all over. It was also at the beginnings of the Cold War, as the Soviet Union exploded their own atomic weapons and inaugurated the threat of mutually assured destruction. These were exciting times, and things Atomic were at the center of it all. Johnston tried to transfer some of that excitement to his attraction by changing the name to "Atomic Tunnel" and concocting a story about how the strange tunnel had been originally intended as a bomb shelter (despite the fact that, with its relatively thin shell and all those windows, the tunnel was the very last place you would have wanted to be in the event of an actual Russian attack).

When the atomic angle still failed to improve visitation much yet another name change was tried and the attraction became "Tunnel of Fantasy," but that apparently didn't help much either. In the late 1950's the tunnel was closed and demolished (by conventional means, not atomic weapons).

Atomic Tunnel/Tunnel of Fantasy

Note: the attractions profiled on this site are no longer in business.

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Postcard and brochure images from the author's collection.

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