During the Great Depression, Key West had turned over its charter to the federal government due to the economic disaster that had hit the island. The federal government believed Key West, with its great weather and location, would make a wonderful tourist destination. The Works Project Administration was sent in and built the Key West Aquarium between 1932-1934. The Aquarium was originally an open air aquarium, one of the first and largest at the time. Today, it is nearly twice the size of the original with the addition of the Atlantic Shores exhibit and the large outdoor holding pens.