Though long closed, St. Augustine’s second and nearly forgotten alligator farm did contribute one lasting element to Florida tourism history.
Casper’s Alligator Farm added an impressive gator statue to its parking lot sometime in the late 1950s. Standing about 12 feet (3.7 m) tall, the laughing gator with the wild eyes sported a walking stick and cigar.
The statue welcomed guests to the attraction until it closed around 1980. At some later point, the gator made its way 38 miles (61 km) north to Jacksonville to live in Metropolitan Park on the north bank of the St. Johns River.
Why there? Well, the address of the park gives a clue. 1410 Gator Bowl Blvd. Today, directly across the boulevard from Metropolitan Park sits the modern football stadium TIAA Field (the current name as of 2020), but until 1994, it was an earlier stadium known as the Gator Bowl.
Originally named Fairfield stadium, it was built in 1927. In 1946, the first Gator Bowl was played there and two years later the stadium itself was renamed the Gator Bowl. For those who are unfamiliar with American college football, a “bowl” is a postseason game. There’s a number of them and they’re typically played by some of the better teams from the season.
Below are images from a 1958 postcard and two brochures as well as photos from a 2016 visit to the statue (which I like to call “Old Casper”).
It’s terrific that the statue still has a purpose, is in good repair and that Old Casper has stopped smoking those nasty cigars.