Key West Shipwreck Treasure Museum, Key West

Key West Shipwreck Treasure Museum, Key West (must see)

The Key West Shipwreck Treasure Museum brings to life the island's fascinating maritime history by telling stories of the brave men and women who risked their lives to salvage the treasures of the many ships that wrecked off the Florida Keys.

The museum is housed in a historic building that was originally constructed in 1852 by wrecker tycoon Asa Tift as a warehouse for the island's thriving wrecking industry. The latter played a key role in Key West's economy during the 19th century and involved salvaging goods from the ships that had run aground near the island.

Over the years, the building has survived fires, hurricanes, and other natural disasters. Towards the end of the 19th century, it was used as a cigar factory and later served as a sponge warehouse. In the 1980s, the building was restored and turned into a museum. The restoration preserved many of its original features, including the distinctive walls clad in wooden siding and arched doorway.

Inside, the museum showcases historical documents and artifacts recovered from the shipwrecks, including treasures such as gold and silver bars, coins, and other valuable items. Many of them come from the 1985 rediscovery of the wrecked vessel Isaac Allerton, which sank in 1856 on the Florida Keys reef and turned out to be one the richest shipwrecks in the city's history, having resulted in the Federal Wrecking Court's largest monetary award for the salvage of a single vessel. Also displayed here are relics from Spanish galleons, including a silver bar salvaged from the Nuestra Senora de las Maravillas that visitors are encouraged to try to lift.

From the top floor, guests can also walk up the 65-foot lookout tower for a panoramic view of the harbor and most of Key West. The tower was added during the restoration of the building much later and today serves as a reminder of the vital role that such towers once played in keeping ships safe from the treacherous reefs surrounding the Florida Keys.

In addition to that, the museum offers a variety of interactive experiences, including live performers reenacting salvage operations that took place in Key West centuries ago. Visitors can also try their hand at the salvaging techniques, using some of the tools and equipment utilized by 19th-century wreckers.

Why You Should Visit:
A unique window into the rich maritime history of Florida Keys.
To learn about the many shipwrecks that made Key West one of the richest towns in the U.S.

Taking a small flashlight, to read many of the signs and posters or labels, would be quite helpful.
You can get a great discount by buying combo tickets for other Key West museums.

Want to visit this sight? Check out these Self-Guided Walking Tours in Key West. Alternatively, you can download the mobile app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from Apple App Store or Google Play Store. The app turns your mobile device to a personal tour guide and it works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Key West Shipwreck Treasure Museum on Map

Sight Name: Key West Shipwreck Treasure Museum
Sight Location: Key West, USA (See walking tours in Key West)
Sight Type: Museum/Gallery
Guide(s) Containing This Sight:

Walking Tours in Key West, Florida

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Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.0 Km or 2.5 Miles
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Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.3 Km or 0.8 Miles

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