|The End of the Prins Valdemar|
|Written by Paul S. George, Special to the BT|
A view of our past from the archives of HistoryMiami
The saga of the Prins Valdemar, a four-masted Danish barkentine sailing ship built in 1892, underlines the richness of Miami’s history.
After a “career” as a training ship for the Danish navy, coconut freighter, blockade runner, and gun smuggler, the vessel entered Miami’s bustling harbor at the height of the great real estate boom of the mid-1920s, laden with building supplies while awaiting another incarnation: as a floating cabaret.
But the fates had something else in mind. As it was being retrofitted with elegant hotel rooms and an eye-catching nightclub, the vessel, in early January 1926, ran onto a sandbar and later keeled over.
It then lay across the turn basin in Miami’s harbor in Biscayne Bay, blocking the entry of other vessels bearing building materials and dealing the boom a severe setback.
Finally, after a six-week effort, the fallen vessel, shorn of its four giant masts, was raised upright and eventually towed to an area close to today’s American Airlines Arena.
For the next 20 years, the vessel hosted the popular Miami Aquarium, which, with its alligators, tropical fish, sharks, turtles, piranhas, and octopuses, attracted tourists and townies in droves to a waterfront already filled with attractions like Bayfront Park and Pier Five.
When the city, in 1948, refused to renew the rental space hosting the floating aquarium, the days of the attraction were numbered. The city later took ownership of the Prins Valdemar and converted it to a civic center for community gatherings, including dances.
In 1952, however, the Miami City Commission decided that the upkeep of the aging vessel no longer made sense, so it decided to scrap it (seen in this photograph with the iconic Miami News Tower in the background), thereby ending a Miami saga that bridged two boom eras separated by a quarter century.
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