WASHINGTON (WJLA) - Monday was your last chance to take in one of D.C.'s secret treasures. The National Aquarium closed its doors for good Monday evening.
200,000 visitors walked the hall of the National Aquarium last year. It first opened its doors in 1885, and moved to its current location in the basement of the Commerce Department in 1932. But the Hoover Building, where the department is currently housed, is undergoing renovations, so aquarium officials decided now was the time to pull the plug.
The aquarium lost its public funding in 1982 and has been privately funded since then.
Retired D.C. school teacher Letitia Westray was one of last year's visitors.
"You learn more from your environment than you do from books," she says. "Books help, books are important, but you need to see things in reality."
2,500 real creatures, or 70-percent of the animals at the aquarium, will soon be shipped to the National Aquarium in Baltimore. Most of the others will be distributed among and housed at other U.S. aquariums, though two American alligators in particular will soon call a Louisiana swamp, home.
It's a somber occasion for the twenty employees at the National Aquarium. Some will also be transferred to Baltimore alongside the animals. But others won't be nearly as lucky.
"We certainly have put a lot of work in the aquarium over the years, and it's definitely sad to see it go," says Curator Jay Bradley.
The Board has hired consultants to look at re-building options, but there is a chance that this hidden gem could erode from the D.C. landscape for good.
"It would be tragic if we started closing museums, or especially in Washington -- charging big entry fees; that would be just dreadful," says tourist Toni Hamner.
Come March, construction crews will begin tearing out these tanks and working on this entire area.