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Standard Oil Money Funded Homage to Oz



(p. A1) Vandals are slowly destroying the Land of Oz, a small private theme park nestled atop Beech Mountain, N.C., built on land bought years ago with money from a Standard Oil fortune. Thieves and urban explorers have carted off polka-dot mushrooms, a pair of cement lions and, most hurtfully, pieces of the golden-hued path that runs through the park.

"It's magical," says Vicky Conley of Morganton, N.C., who took her son to Oz last year when he was six. "People should leave it alone."


. . .


(p. A8) In 1966, Mr. Leidy's grandfather Page Hufty--an insurance pioneer and real-estate developer in Palm Beach, Fla.--bought land on Beech Mountain. His wife, Frances Archbold Hufty, was the granddaughter of John D. Archbold, a titan of the Gilded Age and John D. Rockefeller's right-hand man at Standard Oil, which was dissolved by the government in 1911.

Mr. Hufty leased some of the land to other developers, who wanted a summer theme park to complement their ski resort.

The Land of Oz opened in 1970, amid much fanfare about the 70th anniversary of L. Frank Baum's classic book. Debbie Reynolds stopped by. So did Ray Bolger, who played the Scarecrow in the 1939 movie. At least 300,000 people visited the first year, says Neva Specht, a historian and a dean at the College of Arts and Sciences at Appalachian State University.

By the second year, she says, it was one of the biggest attractions in the Southeast, and it graced the cover of "Southern Living" magazine.


. . .


But the park quickly became more of a white elephant than a Merry Old Land. Attendance dropped, as families were lured away by splashier attractions like Disney World, which opened the following year in Orlando, Fla. The developers went bankrupt, and Mr. Leidy's grandparents eventually gained ownership.


. . .


Mr. Leidy installed fences topped with barbed wire, but thieves cut through. Security cameras didn't seem to deter anyone either. Mr. Leidy is now hiring guards.


. . .


Mr. Leidy says he doesn't know what lies in store over the rainbow, but thinks his grandparents would be proud.

"Until we figure out a long-term plan here," he says, "it's important to me to protect it."



For the full story, see:

CHRISTINA REXRODE. "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road? Even a Wizard Can't Save Oz." The Wall Street Journal (Fri., Sept. 18, 2015): A1 & A8.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Sept. 17, 2016, and has the title "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road? Even a Wizard Can't Save Oz From Vandals.")






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