Not every fairy tale has a happy ending. In 2011, after more than five decades of seasonal operation, Storybook Land in the Wisconsin Dells closed its doors for good.
The ten acre park was located between Dells Army Ducks and the legendary water park known as Noah’s Ark near Lake Delton. The grounds were filled with concrete statues and colorful sights filled with classic stories ranging from The Three Little Bears to Cinderella to Jack-Be-Nimble and nearly two dozen more fairy tales. During its busiest period there were costumed characters wandering the well-manicured, floral-laden grounds. Four ponds were located in the park, each named after one of FLath’s daughters. The whole park served as a peaceful escape from the thrill-a-minute, tourist crazy environment.
Storybook Gardens was first conceived in 1956 by Dells Duck operator Melvin Flath as a roadside attraction for kids and the whole family. Flath was considered slightly crazy by locals because Storybook Gardens was away from downtown and the other Dells attractions like the Tommy Bartlett Show and Wisconsin Deer Park. However, Flath’s location was perfect. Away from the other sights, the Gardens stood alone and captured travelers either as they entered or exited the Dells.
Thousands upon thousands of families visited the park over the years. For a few years in the late 1950s/early 1960s it was the main attraction in the area. However, the park never really made much money. Flath would only operate the park for a few years before turning it over to another group which included Tom Egan who ran the park for over 30 years until selling it in 1989.
By the 1990s the park was seen as a relic of a different. Lost in the sea of flashier theme parks and more modern attractions, the park struggled to remain open. Ownership would change hands several more times with each owner selling for a lesser price. In 2010 the park closed for the season and never re-opened for the 2011. The decision to close was based on dwindling attendance and the fact that the land proved more valuable than the attraction.
The statuary was sold off one-by-one and the welcome center, in the shape of a boat, was sold to be used as a firefighter training facility.