Hidden in Plain Sight: Exploring South Florida’s abandoned, historic sites

(WSVN) - If you’ve lived in Florida for a while, you probably think you know the Sunshine State pretty well, but there are some unique spots that may have faded from memory. The Nightteam’s Brian Entin uncovers what’s Hidden in Plain Sight.

Youtube video: “We’re going to an abandoned hotel in the Everglades.”

Exploring abandoned buildings and historic sites has become all the rage.

Youtube video: “A prison. A huge, massive prison in Florida that’s abandoned.”

Thousands of exploration videos are posted online, and websites like Abandoned Florida highlight mysterious and forgotten places across the state, including popular South Florida spots we wanted to check out.

Our first stop — the old Crandon Park Zoo on Key Biscayne. It closed four decades ago.

Brian Entin: “Tell me about what was in here?”

Ron Magill, Zoo Miami: “Well, this was lions. This was lions, and you come in here and try to imagine an animal — a 400 pound cat — when all it had was these walls and these bars in the front.”

All the old animal cages are still here.

Zoo Miami’s Ron Magill is the perfect tour guide because he started his career here.

Ron Magill: “And this was the nighthouse, OK? So what we’d do is you close this.”

The chimpanzees were kept in these small enclosures.

Ron Magill: “This is all the chimps had. This was it. This is literally a cell.”

The animal exhibits are now hidden in the brush.

Ron Magill: “This was basically a tube that provided shade and shelter for the aoudads, but when we needed to capture them, we would kind of herd them into here.”

Manny Perez, Opa-Locka Public Works: “We’re going through here.”

Our next abandoned site is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The old Opa-Locka City Hall complex was built in the 1920s.

The architect was inspired by “The Arabian Nights” silent film in the early ’20s, and the Islamic-revival architecture is one-of-a-kind.

Brian Entin: “The architecture is incredible.”

Manny Perez: “People come from everywhere in the world to take pictures.”

Manny Perez — with Opa-Locka Public Works — took us inside the abandoned building.

The arched doorways and original stained glass are breathtaking.

The complex is overgrown and crumbling, and remodeling projects were stopped because of the city’s financial problems.

Brian Entin: “Does it make you sad to see it like this?”

Manny Perez: “Well, hey, what it is, is what it is. At least I saw it good.”

The last stop on our South Florida list required a two-mile bike ride into the Everglades to the old South Dade Aerojet rocket test site.

7News writer and self-described space geek Joel Franco showed us around.

Joel Franco, 7News Writer: “It’s about a half-century of other people who have come here to explore and leave their mark here.”

The complex was home to hundreds of scientists during the 1960s space race.

Rocket engines were tested here with the goal of sending astronauts to the moon.

The flame even visible from Miami! But NASA ended up scrapping the project, and the once bustling buildings in the complex were abandoned.

They’re now filled with debris and covered in graffiti.

Amazingly, there’s still a massive rocket buried out here.

Joel Franco: “So coming here, I just put myself in the shoes of the people who once worked here on these rockets, and it’s an inspiration, honestly.”

So many of the abandoned sites are inspiring. It’s no wonder urban exploration has become popular.

It’s a chance for people to see hidden parts of our past that live on.

Abandoned Florida
www.abandonedfl.com/

Copyright 2019 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.