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  • Writer's pictureMel Dick

Ryder's Visit to the Key West Aquarium.

Another dreary rainy day in Key West. Spent a good part of the day at the Key West Aquarium located on the world famous Mallory Square, home of the nightly sunset celebration. Ryder, our 18 month old granddaughter, was fascinated with the sharks, turtles, stingrays, tropical and various fish found in the beautiful waters of Key West. The aquarium is one of Key West's most visited attraction.

Construction of the aquarium began during the Great Depression in 1933 as part of the Works Progress Administration Program (WPAP) which helped to build many historic Key West attractions that inhabit the island today. This provided many jobs to local Key Westers or “Conchs” as they are called today during this hard financial time where jobs were limited and people were in need of income to support their families. The Aquarium took two years to complete and opened to the public on February 18, 1935. At that time admission was 15 cents for adults and 5 cents for children. The Key West Aquarium was the first aquarium to use an “open air concept”. In addition to constructing various public buildings, the WPAP sent 7 artists to Key West to paint colorful murals on public buildings around the island.

Only seven months after opening, Labor Day of 1935, a hurricane struck the middle keys and destroyed the Overseas Railroad and any hope for the aquarium's success along with it. At the time the Overseas Railroad was the only way to reach Key West besides by boat. On May 8, 1943 the U. S. Government leased the Aquarium to the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard to use as an indoor rifle range. All the displays were torn down or filled in to make a level surface area for military firearms. In June of 1946, the Aquarium was returned to the city of Key West and restored to it’s former glory.

More of Key West's famous chickens and Ryder at a park near where we are staying.

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