Fort Lauderdale - History
Fort Lauderdale History
The first inhabitants of the Fort Lauderdale area were Seminole Indians, who arrived in Florida during the 18th and 19th centuries. The city itself got both its start and name from Major William Lauderdale, who in 1838 led his Tennessee Volunteers into the area during the Seminole War. Shortly after they arrived, Lauderdale and his men had cleared the land and raised the New River Fort on the site of the modern city. After a minor battle, Lauderdale and his volunteers left the fort to return to Tennessee, though fighting between the US and the Seminole people continued through the late 1850s.
In 1893, Frank Stranahan arrived and built the first trading post in the area near the site of the fort. Stranahan went on to operate the area's first ferry, became its first postmaster, open its first bank and kickstart the local government.
Fort Lauderdale was incorporated as a town in 1911, and in 1915, when Broward County was formed, it was selected as the county seat. In its early years, Fort Lauderdale was a predominantly agricultural community, raising dairy cows and citrus groves. Its population boomed in the early 1920s but stagnated after a hurricane later in the decade. By the late 1940s and early 1950s, Fort Lauderdale had been rebuilt and its population again began to swell.
Fort Lauderdale found its calling as a tourist destination during the 1960s, when teeny-bopper propaganda films began to hype it as America's Spring Break mecca. Legends of weeklong bacchanalian stumblefests spread during the 1970s and early 1980s, culminating in B-movie stinkers like Spring Break and Where the Boys Are '84, until the local community decided enough was enough. In came the police force, out went the yahoos and so began a remarkably successful barrage of counter-propaganda throughout the nation's universities and colleges.
Over the past decade, the city has worked hard to all but stamp out its Spring Break image, fostering instead a more genteel beachside demeanor and relegating the hellraising to indoor bars and nightclubs. These days, Fort Lauderdale's almost as likely to be seen as a charming berth for wandering yachties as it is to conjure images of wet T-shirt contests. Almost.