Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2009


A combination of factors in mid-20th century Florida gave rise to a unique form of business: the roadside attraction. A burgeoning middle class, widespread ownership of automobiles, and the new phenomenon of the two-week vacation sent tourists to Florida by the millions. Roadside attractions shared a number of common characteristics, including their dependence on impulse visits, the undercapitalized nature of their operations, and emphasis on a unique or exciting feature. While many of these attractions flourished in the mid-20th century, a series of changes beginning with the Federal Highway Act of 1956 ushered in conditions which would drive most roadside attractions out of business. The early years of Gatorland, a 15 acre roadside attraction begun in 1949, was typical in most aspects except for its ability to adapt and survive the changing economic and social forces that impacted Florida’s tourist economy. This paper outlines the three generations of the Godwin family who have overseen the park. With each generation, the qualities of the leadership were sharply different in response to the evolving needs of the attraction.

Publication Title

The Florida Historical Quarterly

Included in

History Commons