Beyond the Green Turtle: the locale’s role in the Labor Day Hurricane
The green turtle was not named for the color of its shell, flippers or scales, but for the color of the layer of fat found beneath its shell. To its unfortunate distinction, the species became recognized as the turtle that rendered the tastiest stock for the soup that grew to attain worldwide popularity.
The Key West restaurant, Turtle Kraals, has the distinction of being located on the grounds of what was once one of Key West’s historic turtle canneries. The first opened in 1849. While several canneries operated at the locale over time, it was Armand Granday who found the first real success. “At the time the industry was first started, Mr. Granday secured his turtles from the water about Key West, but they become so scarce in these waters that the turtles used in the manufacture of the soup are now caught in the Caribbean Sea along the Gulf of Mexico, with some from the coast of Nicaragua.” (Norberg Thompson, 1914, The New and Greater Key West told in picture and story) as demand for turtle meat grew, the marine reptiles became harder and harder to find. When the U.S. Department of the Interior created a list of 60 “possibly endangered species” in 1964, the green turtle made the list. An already declining turtle industry was coming to a stop. The first catch restrictions were implemented in 1971. The industry ended once and for all, at least in the United States, when all marine turtles fell under the protective umbrella of the Federal Endangered Species Act of 1973.
As for Berlin Felton, the man who built the Rustic Inn discussed at Stop One, he would form a construction company with Alonzo Cothron. They formed the A&B Company. Alonzo represented the A and Berlin the B. Among the list of A&B holdings was the A&B Docks compound, home to the aforementioned docks, as well as an icehouse, marine repair shop, and the A&B Grocery. Today, that Upper Matecumbe locale has been completely revamped and currently houses the picturesque Pierre’s and Morada Bay properties.
Another of the A&B ventures included the property that is now home to Windley Key’s Theater of the Sea. Before the water feature became home to bottlenose dolphin performing for enthralled crowds, it was a quarry created during construction of Henry Flagler’s Key West Extension of the East Coast Railway. It was also used by Alonzo and Berlin to raise stone crabs.
One A&B venture still stands in Key West. The A&B Lobster House, located on historic Schooner Wharf, was established in 1947, the same year Sid and Roxie’s Green Turtle Inn opened. Still in operation, the A&B Lobster House pays tribute to Alonzo and Berlin and is home to Alonzo’s Oyster Bar and Berlin’s Cocktail and Cigar Bar.