It’s pretty rare for a hurricane to come along to South Florida in November but that’s exactly what happened on this day in history in 1935. It wasn’t a terrible hurricane, it was just a category one, but one thing it did do was blow Fort Lauderdale’s floating hotel, the Amphitrite from her moorings near Las Olas Beach onto Idlewyld.
The Amphitrite started life as a naval vessel, being built in the latter part of the 1800s. The ship was used in the Spanish-American war – bombarding San Juan, for one example – and was a navy ship until after WW1.
In the First World War she was put to work in New York harbor. After the navy, she was sold to A.L.D Bucksten for $35,000, converted and used as a hotel in Beaufort, North Carolina, later in Georgia.
Newspapers of 1926 reported that the ship was being converted into a floating hotel. It would be moored ‘off Miami’ with a fleet of launches available to transport guests to and from the hotel.In 1929 the vessel arrived in Miami but it was much to the horror of locals and officials. In 1930 the Miami News referred to it as ‘an abandoned freak that suggests nothing as much as a ramshackle frame tenement house on water’.
However, Fort Lauderdale needed hotels and the Amphitrite arrived here and was moored behind the Las Olas Casino. The hotel proved to be popular. It had 72 rooms and prices were reasonable. In its restaurant, breakfast was 50 cents and dinner one dollar. For its opening dinner dance, the hotel featured the Royal Hawaiian Orchestra from Honolulu. In it’s later years it was said that illegal gambling took place aboard and that it was also a base for ‘ladies of the night’.
After the hurricane, and the vessel’s unplanned relocation, Idlewyld homeowners insisted that she be moved. The board of health agreed. In its present location, water couldn’t move freely around the floating hotel – not a good idea for the ships ‘waste products’.
In 1942 it was requisitioned by the war administration and was moved to North Carolina for the duration of the war where she provided accommodation for workers building a new naval station. The ship then became housing for those who were building the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.
In 1951, ownership changed. Plans to refit the ship for work supporting oil exploration in the Venezuelan oil fields simply didn’t happen and she was scrapped in 1952.
Would you have spent a vacation on the Amphitrite? I think it’s just too spooky.
Photo: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory