Argh ! Key West will lose its pirate museum in August when Pat Croce takes his original Jolly Roger flag, Captain Kidd journal and other historic booty and heads for St. Augustine.
Five years ago eclectic entrepreneur Pat Croce dressed as a swashbuckler and wielded a sword to slash the ribbon for the opening of his $10 million museum, Pirate Soul.
He thought Key West, with its long-standing affection for rogues of the sea, would be the perfect home for his original Jolly Roger flag, Thomas Tew treasure chest and 500 other pirate artifacts collected over more than two decades.
But while most of Croce's other ventures have turned to gold -- a sports medicine empire, presidency of the NBA's 76ers, motivational speaker -- the museum hasn't captured the wallets of large numbers of tourists. So in July, he's packing up Blackbeard's severed head and the rest of his blackguard booty and heading north to another city with a pirate past: St. Augustine.
"Pirates sacked St. Augustine, and burned it to the ground," said Croce, who has pirate-themed tattoos all over his body."The museum should have more relevance there."
In January, Croce bought a building across the street from a 17th century Spanish fort in St. Augustine and began demolition. The nation's oldest city has been attacked twice by pirates: in 1586, by Sir Francis Drake, and in 1668, by privateer Robert Searles, according to archeologist Dana Ste. Claire, department director of the city's heritage tours and historic preservation.