The World’s First Oceanarium, Marineland

The World’s First Oceanarium, Marineland opened in 1938 as “Marine Studios.” Now a dolphin conservation center, Marineland Dolphin Adventure offers a number of ways to interact with Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, as well as hands-on exhibits and educational programs to inspire and connect guests with marine life. The idea for Marineland, the World’s First Oceanarium, first came from W. Douglas Burden, Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney, Sherman Pratt and Ilya Tolstoy. They imagined a place where sea creatures could live and thrive in a simulated ocean environment. Fred Henderich and Company designed the premises of Marineland, and was also responsible for the Orange Street School, the Y.M.C.A. building, Plaza Bandstand, the original Flagler Hospital, Florida Normal College, Excelsior School, and the Visitor’s Center. The ocean park was constructed by Arthur Franklin Perry Co. from the Jacksonville area. “Marine Studios” opened on June 23, 1938 with its biggest attraction being the bottlenose dolphin. More than 20,000 visitors attended the opening. Originally, Marineland consisted of a Circular Oceanarium that held 400,000 gallons of water, and a Rectangular Oceanarium that held 450,000 gallons of water. But several outside amenities began to spring up around it including the Marineland Motel, the Dolphin Restaurant, the Moby Dick Lounge, and Marineland Marina. Marineland consists of 125 acres between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway. It was made a sophisticated destination due to its association with Ilya Tolstoy who was the grandson of Leo Tolstoy, and even famous writers such as Ernest Hemingway and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings graced Moby Dick’s Bar with their presence. The site was a filming location for many movies including Creature from the Black Lagoon, Revenge of the Creature, Sea Hunt, and Benji Takes a Dive. Benji was the first dog to scuba dive, and he did so at Marineland. Over 900,000 visitors came each year to Marineland through the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s to see their spectacular Dolphin show.As Marineland moves toward the future as a leader in animal care, training, conservation, and education, we are very aware of the shoulders on which we stand. Pioneers in the biological sciences founded Marine Studios in 1938 and it is their success, their dedication, and their passion which brought us to where we are today. From pride in history comes an enthusiastic desire to share it with community. Marineland’s archivist and historian is available to speak at your social gathering, club, service organization, or business meeting to share Marineland’s story: Past, Present, and Future. With such a long and fascinating history, presentations can focus on any number of topics including science and history, celebrities and film, or animal care and training.

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