From 1907 to 1953, one of the strangest tourist attractions of all time operated in the heart of Los Angeles’s Lincoln Heights: The California Alligator Farm.
The farm was home to over 1,000 gators, and guests could pet, play with, and even ride the reptiles around the property. The gators roamed the grounds freely and occasionally broke into the surrounding Lincoln Heights community.
According to the blog MessyNessy, there was never a report of a gator attacking a guest or a Lincoln Heights citizen, and just one report of a gator biting a trainer in the leg.
[The] only mention of an accident I could find was of a female handler, severely bitten by an enraged 6ft long reptile when she stepped on his tail on the night of Nov 20 1915 at Alligator Farm. “It fastened its teeth on her right thigh”.
The park was operated by Francis Earnest and “Alligator” Joe Campbell, who amassed a small fortune off of the 25-cent admission fee. For just a quarter, you could see trained gators go down a slide, dine with a pack of gators in a swimming pool, or even ride a saddled gator around the park. Your children could be completely surrounded by a pack of baby gators. No, really.
If you were feeling particularly ballsy, you could just casually read a book while lounging on a creature that could easily bit your head off.
(Click images to enlarge)
Afterwards, just to cruelly assert humanity’s dominance, you could go to the gift shop and pick out a pair of alligator skin boots or a wallet as a massive ‘f*ck you’ to your reptilian subjects.
Eventually, the community of Lincoln Heights got fed up with the gator farm. The farm moved to Buena Park, near Knott’s Berry Farm, where it remained until it shut down in 1984.
The remaining gators where moved to a private estate in Florida, because apparently alligators retire in the Sunshine state too. Although the Gator’s Farm brochure claimed the animals could live for 500 years, their average life span is only 50 — still, some of the gators in Florida probably remember the good ol’ days when tourists rode them around and treated them like big scaly dogs.
Images via Los Angeles Public Library