On September 8, 1934, The S.S. Morro Castle was heading to New York City from Havana, Cuba when a mysterious fast-moving fire broke out leaving the ship with no way to steer. Another ship attempted to bring the Morro Castle to New York, but the towline broke, and she was beached, still smoldering, just north of the Convention Hall Pier.

Coast Guard stations up and down the shore, as well as hundreds of civilian volunteers, were involved in rescuing survivors and recovering victims. Ultimately, more than 130 of the 549 people on board died as a result of the fire itself, from drowning or from injuries resulting from jumping overboard.

For months after the disaster, thousands of sightseers would come to see the charred hulk of S.S. Morro Castle. It was a boon to the local economy, and hotels were occupied long after the summer season usually ended. Postcards and souvenirs were sold depicting the disaster, and it was even used in advertising local businesses. She was eventually towed away to be sold as scrap in March of 1935.