Jim Turner serenades the orcas, Hugo, left, and Lolita, at the Seaquarium. with Bach sonatas on his musical saw. Turner performed for 20 minutes in front of the attentive pair and labeled them “a great audience”.

If you visited Miami as a tourist in the 1950s and 1960s, the Seaquarium was on your must-visit list. The hotels have published brochures and even offered a bus service to the marine attraction on the Rickenbacker causeway.

Then came Disney World. And the star has faded a bit for the Seaquarium, as well as other Miami roadside attractions.

But the Seaquarium worked. This is still a step for many. A place for school outings and summer camps. A rehabilitation center for injured marine life before being released back into the wild.

At one point, the owners proposed a major expansion of the marine park. Community opposition and other challenges killed those plans. In addition to entertaining visitors with its dolphin shows, the Seaquarium has also served as a hospital ward for injured or sick manatees and turtles and other marine animals.

The Seaquarium, recently purchased by a Mexican theme park company, has also been in a sea of ​​controversy over the treatment of animals. And activists have called for the release of its star attraction, Lolita the Killer Whale.

Let’s go back to the beginnings of the Virginia Key monument.

Here’s what the attraction looked like when there was a monorail circling the grounds, when Hugo the killer whale performed with Lolita before he died in 1980, what the dolphin shows looked like when the park opened its doors in 1955 and into the 60s and ’70s.

And surely you have heard of Flipper?

In addition to the shows at the Seaquarium, the dolphin (in fact, multiple dolphins who have played the character) was also the star of his own network television show. And the Seaquarium star even jumped from his own tank set up in the end zone during the Miami Dolphins’ first Orange Bowl games in the mid-to-late ’60s.

Here are photos from the Miami Herald archives as well as the State Library and Archives of Florida:

The theme park

An aerial view of the Miami Seaquarium on Virginia Key in the 1960s. State Library and Archives of Florida

pinball tv show

The ‘Flipper’ series, which ran from 1964 to 1967, employed seven dolphins to play the lead role with Tommy Norden, left, Brian Kelly and Luke Halpin. Miami Herald/NBC File

‘Flipper’ star Luke Halpin greets Onyx, one of the dolphins that lives in Flipper’s lagoon at the Miami Seaquarium, in 2004. Halpin and his ‘Flipper’ co-star Tom Norden returned to the Miami Seaquarium to celebrate the 40th anniversary of their show, parts of which were filmed in the same swimming pool. David M. Barreda Miami Herald File / 2004

The monorail

A monorail circled the Seaquarium floor in the 1970s. Unlike Disney World’s onorail, this one was suspended from the track. Florida State Library and Archives

The Dolphins

Andrew Hertz, director of the Miami Seaquarium, cuddles Sundance, an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin who performs on the Pinball Show. Candace Barbot Miami Herald File / 2001

The dolphins show themselves in the early years. Florida State Library and Archives

A dolphin flies high in the 1960s. Forida State Library and Archives

killer whales

Hugo and Lolita perform in the 1970s. State Library and Archives of Florida

sea ​​lions

Salty the Sea Lion and friends at the Miami Seaquarium. Miami Herald File / 1998

A camper gets closer to Salty the sea lion. Jeffery A. Salter Miami Herald file / 1996

rescue center

the entrance

Entrance to the beginning of the Seaquarium. Florida State Library and Archives

Humanitarian Certificate 09 Seaquarium EKM.JPG
Flamingos wade through the water near the main entrance to the Miami Seaquarium on Wednesday, September 12, 2018. Emily Michot [email protected]

Day Editor Jeff Kleinman, born and raised in South Florida, oversees breaking, public service and trending news coverage.