Fort Lauderdale History


The History of Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Written by Julie Greiner

Just 6,000 years ago, Florida's familiar landscape took shape - an appendix resembling a hitchhiker's thumb, filled with exotic plant and animal forms. It boasts some 1,300 miles of shoreline, second to none except for Alaska. Her beaches stretch about 800 miles, more than 30,000 lakes are present - including 730 square miles of Lake Okeechobee - the fourth largest lake in the United States. Almost 15% of Florida is water.


Florida's earliest inhabitants were paleo-Indians. In around the year 2000 B.C. pottery began to be created in Florida. Approximately 800 years prior to when it appeared in the rest of the United States. The Tequesta Indians settled along the Gold Coast, which is now Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami. Credit for the European discovery of Florida usually goes to Spain's Don Juan Ponce de Leon. However, it is believed that an Italian named John Cabot may have beat him to it. No matter, the fact still remains that these Indian tribes vanished from the face of the earth less than three centuries after Columbus arrived in 1492. Fort Lauderdale, the middle of the now Gold Coast was a swamp back in 1857. During the Seminole Wars a wooden fort was built and named after Tennessee Volunteer Major William Lauderdale. Then the fort was left to rot in the midst of a mangrove swamp. Runaway slaves and army deserters used it for a hideout.

Tequesta Indians, Pottery, then Columbus

To transform the swamp into prime real estate, it took a Charles Green Rhodes to plan the dredging of parallel canals, using the fill to create long peninsulas between them. It was the same theory used to create Venice, Italy, which earned Fort Lauderdale the nickname, "Venice of America." Flagler's railroad followed and the city was incorporated in 1911. Prior to the spring (break) migration was the Collegiate Aquatic Forum. A unique winter attraction that started in 1935. The word spread about the sun and beaches and the trickling of students coming down for spring break peaked in the 1960s with the Connie Francis' song "The Strip" and the beach-party movie "Where The Boys Are", a movie that may still be scene in theaters around Ft. Lauderdale. A few weeks of teen chaos each spring put Fort Lauderdale, a then rather small sleepy town, on the map. With the value of land located on water ever escalating and the foresight of the local government discouraging the spring break teen migrations - Fort Lauderdale has evolved into a mecca of sophistication.

Florida Statehood in 1911

During the 1990's Fort Lauderdale took a turn towards the more cosmopolitan. Fort Lauderdale today features beautifully preserved beaches, international dining, cosmopolitan shopping, championship golfing, rich cultural art and entertainment centers and forever sunshine.The diversified cultures have mixed together to form the perfect vacation atmosphere.

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