Key West Shipwreck Treasures Museum
Enter the world of 1856 Key West, the Era of the Wreckers, and step back in time to discover Key West's unique maritime heritage, as well as the story of how it became the richest city in the United States. The museum combines live actors, films, and artifacts from the merchant ship Issac Allerton, originally wrecked and sank in 1856 and rediscovered in 1985, when what remained of its cargo was recovered and later displayed within the Shipwreck Treasures Museum. Join Asa Trift, a master wrecker, and his crew as he tells you the story of how the unique and strange industry of wrecking provided a livelihood for early pioneers of Key West.
During the Golden Age of sailing, more than 100 ships would pass Key West per day. The waters near Key West were well known as some of the most treacherous waters in the world and on average, at least one ship per week would wreck along the Florida Reef. Brave wreckers would watch the reef from observation towers that sometimes stood over 90' tall and from their own smaller vessels that would patrol the waters night and day. When a wreck was sighted, it was a mad race to the site. The first man to reach the wreck became the Wrecking Master and would overlook the salvage process and get a larger share of the profits. Payment to the crew members fluctuated depending on how dangerous or time-consuming the operation had been.
Climb the museum's 65' Observation Tower and alarm Mr. Trift of any wrecks you see on the shore or along the reef! This museum is a fantastic way to learn about the heritage of Key West, as well as the history of the Wrecking Industry, and the Issac Allerton merchant ship, whose cargo is the main source of artifacts in the museum.
About the Issac Allerton -
Built in 1836, the vessel spent her years as a merchant ship, carrying merchandise and cargo throughout the North Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico. In 1856, the ship was caught in a hurricane 15 miles away from Key West. All of the crew were rescued and most of the cargo was recovered, resulting in the richest payoff in Key West history, totaling over $50,000. Some of the original cargo can be seen within the exhibits at the Key West Shipwreck Treasures Museum.