Dupree Gardens in Land o' Lakes

by Joey Vars
(St Petersburg, Fla)





Living in Land o’ Lakes my whole life, I thought I knew almost everything about it. However, the other night, I stumbled across something that excited me: there was once a large Botanical gardens just a mile or so away from my house, back during the wartime years before Land o’ Lakes was even conceived.


Created by William Dupree, Dupree Gardens was a lush, 25-acre “Garden of Eden” with over 500 species of exotic plants. There were glass-bottomed boats traversing the many lakes of the park, a lodge with tea room, gift shop, and lodging arrangements.

Wartime gasoline rationing caused the gardens to close “for the duration”, and briefly reopened in 1946. However, attendance was no where near the 30,000 reported in the 1940-41 season, and the attraction stopped regular operations in the early 1950’s.

Intermittent at best from there on, the land was sold to numerous companies in the late 50’s.

There are a few remnants of the gardens left over in the twenty-first century.

On Mary Jane Lane (Dupree’s daughter’s name), wild ferns, bamboo and plants run amok. The lodge is now a private residence. A few of the smaller lakes have been preserved by Beazer homes, the company who developed a subdivision on the northern part of the gardens. Most visibly, however, is the native-stone ticket booth that stands on the eastern side of Ehren Cutoff, just south of Parkway Boulevard.

I’ve seen this structure for years, but always assumed it as part of the subdivision nearby. It wasn’t until I heard about the gardens did I realize its true historical value. The next time I am home, I will take pictures of it and the historical marker erected earlier this year in front of it.

It’s exciting to me to know that Land o’ Lakes actually was something more than just nudists and old people. Everywhere I go, it’s always assumed that I’m from the place that makes butter. In reality, there are just subdivisions, country folk, and angsty teenagers dying to escape suburbia. To know that it was once a beautiful garden of Eden excites me, especially because it’s so close to my boyhood home.

The above pictures are postcards I found on the internet showcasing these beautiful gardens. It’s things like this that make me wish I had a time machine, and also excites me in the name of discovery.

Comments for Dupree Gardens in Land o' Lakes

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Sep 15, 2016
Response to Previous Comment
by: Anonymous

Sherry, you were probably there too late.

My family moved into what was the Dupree family cabin in 1955 when my grandparents relocated to the area from Virginia. By then the tea house and cabin were both private residences and remained so until 1995 when my grandmother passed as a result of the tea house fire which destroyed that building.

The cabin remains in our family and intact and is an awesome piece of Florida history tucked away behind modern bungalows and housing developments.

Interestingly enough, my mother grow up on Bell Lake in a large home that was once a hotel. She lived there in the 60s. That structure was torn down with expansion of US 41 years ago.

Jul 24, 2015
Historic Land O Lakes
by: Anonymous

I live off of Hale Road in Land O Lakes and my family moved here around the same time that Dupree Gardens came to be... I have aerial photos of the area from the 50s and a lot of history from my family as well.

Many of the roads off of Hale are named after my Aunts and Uncles. My property is the last remainder of an Estate similar to Dupree: The Hale House. It is in a Pasco History Publication.

August Vagts was my Great-Grandfather.

Ehren used to be its own town... as was Drexel... there is a lot more to Land O Lakes than it shows... and people think we are about "butter" (lol).

FLORIDA BACKROADS TRAVEL SAYS:

Dear Anonymous: thanks for the Land O Lakes history. August Vagts would be surprised to learn he has a grandchild named "Anonymous". (lol)

Jan 19, 2015
Camellia Court Motel in Land O'Lakes
by: Sherry Alexander Sugg

My dad's father retired from the railroad and decided to buy a small 4 unit motel with a house on the property where he and my grandmother could live.It was Camellia Court on Highway 41 in Land O'Lakes, just south of the Pure Oil gas station. It backed up onto Lake Bell. We used to go there every summer, and also go to stay with my mother's mom in Miami (see my post on Musa Isle). I don't remember Dupree Gardens, so perhaps we just missed them. We started visiting our grandparents there in the early 1950's.Good times!

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