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Plantation Paradise | Photo © 2018 Bullet, www.abandonedfl.com

Plantation Paradise

Location Class:
Built: 1957 | Abandoned: 2004
Status: Abandoned
Photojournalist: David Bulit

Plantation Paradise

Born on February 23, 1919, in Rutledge, Pennsylvania, Harold Jackson Emminger came to Florida during World War II as an Air Force captain stationed at MacDill Air Force Base. Emminger came to Florida in 1950 having a residence in Winter Haven. He married his first wife Lucille Mae Taylor in 1951 and the couple moved to Lake Placid where they bought 35 acres of land for $4,000 from a local county extension agent who had grown pineapples in the area for years. They had zero farming experience but he and his wife tended 15 acres of pineapples, or 180,000 pineapples, by themselves. They lost money for three years before turning a $5 profit on the fourth.

They built the Plantation Paradise gift shop in 1957. That same year, a freeze killed half of their crop. To save the remaining fruit, Emminger began selling preserves and freezes which would continue to be one of the best sellers at Plantation Paradise. The Hawaiian motif was Lucille’s idea as was the name “Plantation Paradise.” In later years, Emminger would offer pineapple preserves mixed with fruit such as bananas, calamondins, cherries, strawberries, coconuts, mangoes, mint, and oranges. He sold them for $2.25 each. The pineapple variety he uses in his recipes were “natal queens,” an African pineapple with a high sugar content and smaller than the Hawaiian variety.

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The original 30-foot “JUICE” sign outside of the Plantation Paradise gift shop.
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Plantation Paradise, 1960s postcard

Business in the 1980s

His wife Lucille died on January 14, 1970. He remarried in 1985 to Virginia McKenna and moved to Parrish, about 80 miles from Lake Placid. But that didn’t stop him as he commuted to Plantation Paradise to continue his reign as “The Pineapple King.”

In 1989, after a freeze destroyed Emminger’s 15-acre crop, he stopped offering fresh pineapples. This did not stop Emminger began importing Mexican pineapples to stay in business. In the 1990s, business was still good at Plantation Paradise, bringing in around 300-400 customers a day during the winter months and 150 customers during the summer.

Emminger continued to work at Plantation Paradise until his retirement in 2004 at the age of 85. He died on May 14, 2008. The fruit stand has sat empty since his retirement with postcards lying strewn about the shop, the backs containing various recipes such as key lime pie and pineapple margarita. The golden pineapple still stands outside along the highway in front of the boarded-up old gift shop.

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Harold Emminger pouring himself a glass of juice squeezed from his own pineapples. 1985

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David Bulit is a photographer, author, and historian from Miami, Florida. He has published a number of books on abandoned and forgotten locales throughout the United States and continues to advocate for preserving these historic landmarks. His work has been featured throughout the world in news outlets such as the Miami New Times, the Florida Times-Union, the Orlando Sentinel, NPR, Yahoo News, MSN, the Daily Mail, UK Sun, and many others. You can find more of his work at davidbulit.com as well as amazon.com/author/davidbulit.

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