Dupree Gardens

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Dupree Gardens.

J. William Dupree, a Tampa lawyer, did two things in the 1930's that would change his life: he bought a 900 acre estate in Pasco County near what is now known as Land O' Lakes, and he got in a car wreck.

While recovering from his crash he took to gardening, planting an enormous exotic gardens of tropical trees and flowers on his property. His friends talked him into opening his gardens to the public and on December 1, 1940, Dupree Gardens opened its gates. He added a restaurant and boat rides on the lake, along with a sound system to pipe classical music in among the blooms. It was a big success in its first year, attracting thousands of visitors.

But then came World War II. Gas rationing and wartime priorities caused tourism to dry up, and the restaurant shut down. The gardens finally closed in the 1950's.

Parts of the land became an orchard, part became Dupree Gardens Estates, and part around the lake even became a nudist colony. Residential development there continues, but traces of the gardens still live on in some of the unusual exotic plants that remain scattered throughout the area.

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Postcard image from the Author's Collection.

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