77. Shrimp Boat Fleet

Historic Marker number 77 is located at 200 Margaret Street at the edge of the Historic Seaport.

The Historic Seaport has seen many industries come and go. For 50 years, the port was dominated by the sponging industry. The turtle kraals and cannery were present until the 1970s. From 1912 to 1935 commerce centered around the main terminal for Henry Flagler's Over-Sea Railroad. With the demise of the railroad those docks became a military base and a training ground for Navy sea plane pilots. Today the docks are home to the Coast Guard.

The marker is located at the epicenter of the Key West shrimp fleet. Florida pink shrimp were discovered off the Dry Tortugas in 1947. The new industry attracted nearly 500 shrimp trawlers. There were so many boats in port that it was often said that you could walk from one side of the Seaport to the other without ever touching water.

Fish markets, packing factories, ice houses, a cannery, rough bars and thousands of fishermen and shrimpers followed. The bustling shrimp industry became a significant driving force in the local economy for two decades. The shrimping era is often referred to as the "pink gold rush".

The bronze statue behind the marker is for Henry "Boots" Singleton. He was one of the first fishermen to capitalize on the shrimp industry. He was one of the first fishermen to capitalize on the shrimp industry. He acquired 4 shrimp trawlers in 1948 and fished the Key West area extensively. He was an enterprising man and opened the Singleton Seafood Company in Fort Myers the same year. As shrimp supplies began to dwindle in the 1960s he moved his operation to Tampa. He purchased shrimp throughout the country and packed and trucked the product around the World. He was known as the "king of shrimp" for most of his life.

Eventually the local shrimp business dwindled due to overseas competition and ever rising diesel prices.

Today the ice houses have been replaced with hotels, offices, and parking lots. The shrimp packing building now operates as a restaurant and the turtle kraals and cannery are a museum. Charter boats and ferries dock where the shrimp trawlers once called home.

Tourism has replaced the historic endeavors and industries that took place here in bygone years. It is a good change for the seaport as long as we remember our history and cherish our seafaring heritage.