Pirate Museum Moves to New Florida Digs
Avast Ye Mateys! Fans of all things pirate will want to visit a newly opened museum in the historic Florida city of St. Augustine.
The St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum is the brainchild of former Philadelphia 76ers president Pat Croce, who has a passion for both basketball and pirates.
"It just happened when I was a kid. I fell in love with Errol Flynn and "Captain Blood" movies," Croce tells AOL Travel News. "I would write a skull and cross bones in notebooks, and the nuns would smack me. And I was a pirate for Halloween as a kid."
As his wealth grew from businesses, Croce, an entrepreneur and motivational speaker, started collecting pirate artifacts including one of only two original Jolly Roger flags known to exist (the other is in Finland), the only authentic pirate chest in America, a journal from Captain Kidd's last journey, and real weapons and pieces of eight.
About six years ago, Croce opened Pirate Soul in Key West to display his collection, with exhibits featuring not only memorabilia but Disney Imagineer-designed animatronics, interactive displays and technologies such as creepy 3-D sound, all used in an attempt to re-create the Golden Age of Piracy (1690-1730).
The museum was popular, but given Key West's somewhat remote location, hours from Miami, it didn't attract the family and school group tourist crowd that Croce was hoping for, he says. He decided to close up shop and move the museum to St. Augustine in northern Florida, the oldest city and port in the U.S.
"I love Key West. I have a home in Key West. But you go there to party. In St. Augustine, heritage is number one. And families go there."
The former museum's exhibits are back in the St. Augustine venue. But there are also new displays outlining local routes where famous pirates walked the streets, plundered and pillaged – Sir Francis Drake and Robert Searles even burnt St. Augustine to the ground in 1586 and 1688, respectively.
Added attractions at the new museum, which is located across from a 17th century fort, also include a participatory treasure hunt, 17th century cannons that fire (in electronically simulated fashion) and pirate movie memorabilia.
"We now have Hollywood pirates, props from "Pirates of the Caribbean," "Hook," and "The Goonies," Croce says. "I took it up a notch."
Movie items on display include Captain Jack Sparrow's sword and cursed Aztec coin and Captain Hook's hook.
Among nearly 800 museum-quality artifacts are borrowed historical items from the State of Florida collection including gold, rings, jewels and sword handles.
Croce is still collecting too.
"I just got some really cool coins from the 1715 fleet off the east coast of Florida," he says.