Mermaids' home now back to its original look

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Years before Disney, the mermaids of Weeki Wachee were among the most famous attractions in Florida. People came from all over to see them.  In fact, one of the biggest stars of the century came to that underwater theater to see the mermaids. 

"Everyone knew Elvis was coming and it was a very, very, very exciting day," recalled 77-year-old former mermaid Vicki Smith.

Elvis, of course, left the building.  And while the show continued, the building itself was overhauled.  In the 70's, they covered up the distinctive clamshell design with a square box.

"In looking back, it was a crazy, crazy thing to do," Smith continued.  "But at that time, people thought they were doing the right thing."

Maybe they thought they could modernize a mermaid show to keep up with the times, but they finally realized the Weeki Wachee charm is retro from a different age -- like the clamshell roof that was covered up 30 years ago.

They wondered, could it still be under there?

"We could tell that the roof was there and it was somewhat intact we just didn't know the actual condition of it," park ranger Ed Hamilton explained.

Hamilton, a former building contractor, watched as the historic cement roof was revealed. It just needed a few patches, but otherwise, it's just as it was in the 50's.

"It was beautiful," he continued.  "I mean, the retro look of this building -- why they ever covered it up was a shame."

Now, the building looks just like the day that Elvis saw it.

"I think it's a blessing to have it back," Smith added.

Weeki Wachee opened as a roadside attraction in 1947.  It became a state park in 2008.