MARINELAND OF FLORIDA

Marine Studios of Florida | Established 1938

Industrialist family descendants such as W. Douglas Burden (the great-great-grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt), Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney (cousin of W. Douglas Burden), Sherman Pratt (a descendent of a partner of Standard Oil), and Ilia Tolstoy (grandson of Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy) built the world’s first Oceanarium and the first underwater movie studio in 1937.

A site was selected on the Atlantic Ocean south of St. Augustine for “Marine Studios”. Despite the heavy monetary calibur of its brain trust, financing and construction presented challenges as Marineland was the first attempt at capturing and sustaining aquatic animals, including marine mammals, in captivity.  After conquering the finacial challenges of construction and the unknown outcome of capturing large marine specimens, the next great challenge was handling the thousands of people who came to see the attraction. The business model relied on the revenues from the motion picture industry to defray costs and justify the construction of the facility.  The revenue from public admission was considered an afterthought or fringe. However, on June 23, 1938, “Marine Studios” opened with its main attraction as a bottlenose dolphin. Over 20,000 people came to see the attraction on its opening day causing chaos for miles on A1A. Without a doubt, the oceanarium was born that day and its appeal to the public established.

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