Peafowl Fantasy: an Archive of an Imagined Florida
The recreational experience of the simulation of the wild landscape of Jungle Garden was somewhat novel at the time the park was opened. The early twentieth century was experiencing a shift in its perspectives towards the idea of “the wilderness.” Previous eras had considered the wild landscape a dangerous and uninhabitable place, and therefore uncivilized. Cronon explains that the shift away from this frame for the wilderness occurred in the second half of the nineteenth century, when the concepts of the sublime and the frontier worked together to build an appeal for “nature.” Cronon tracks these changes in the romantic writings of William Wordsworth, Henry David Thoreau, and John Muir, who all agree that the wilderness is where one goes to see the face of God, on mountaintops and in waterfalls. The birth of this sentiment coincided with the formation of the American national parks organization, which endorsed sites that most embodied sublime qualities
Lindsay constructed Jungle Gardens as his own window onto such myths. The garden he designed is divided into three main sections: a large lawn that surrounds a pond, the Garden of Christ with adjoining exhibits of biblical plants, and the jungle region. In the jungle region,
where bird exhibits and hidden speakers emit bird screeches, the landscape evokes the anxiety of the wilderness inside the gates of the park. The exhibit is planted with tall palms and bamboo
that obstruct the sunlight from the small and winding paths. The undergrowth consists almost completely of Florida-native leatherfern climbing up the trunks of the large trees and smaller
palms—like the Burmese fishtail palm and the Chinese fan palm—filling up available space and obstructing your view of the other sections of the path. As the path winds back and forth, it creates the illusion of a journey of a much greater distance, as the visitor serpentines across a small plot of land. Painted wooden tiki totems with facial expressions that range from threatening to jovial hide in the brush and signify a danger; whether they warn of a danger ahead or present themselves as a threat, they read as protectors of the landscape, scaring off intruders. As signs of danger, the tiki totems do not actually evoke fear, but act as indicators that this is the theme of the exhibit: a simulacral fear of the unknown as motivation for the domestication of a distant culture. By blocking sightlines with its sharp turns and dense foliage, the path presents an
unknown every few yards. At several points along the path, a creek crosses, building up water pressure with each encounter. These encounters build anticipation for the larger body of water
that creates the rush of the stream. The waterfall that produces the stream hardly evokes the sublime, but in its attempt to create tension, it gently gestures toward the theme.