Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Lustron House: Solution to post WWII housing comes to Fort Lauderdale

A California Lustron house 
By Jane Feehan

A housing shortage affected the nation—and South Florida—after World War II. Among the reasons was pent up demand and a dearth of building materials (see my post at http://bit.ly/17FH9wa ).

Carl  G. Strandlund, then 48,  set out to remedy the problem with his idea for a prefabricated house. He launched Lustron Corporation in 1947 with $1,000 jointly invested with his wife, some other private capital and a loan of about $37.5 million from the federal government. It was a controversial loan because of its risk, one that had many detractors in Washington, but the housing need, as defined by President Harry S. Truman, was critical. Strandlund, an engineer, put up his patent for his prefab house as collateral.

Strandlund’s plan was to build 150 a day or a total of 17,500 houses in a plant in Columbus, Ohio with thousands of employees. Lustron Corp. built about 2,500 units, which were delivered as kits. Walls, ceilings and roofs were made of porcelain-enameled steel. Plumbing fixtures were constructed of enamel. The automotive and aircraft industries provided the templates for wiring and lighting. The houses were low maintenance, simple structures of one or two bedrooms but they had low curb appeal.

Lustron Corporation declared bankruptcy in February, 1950. 

There were production delays and lack of a distribution strategy. Also, little thought went into community or site planning. But a few were sent to Florida, with the largest number to Sarasota. Records indicate there was one located at 110 Hendricks Isle in Fort Lauderdale. One remains in this city, the Alfred and Olive Thorpe Lustron House, at 1001 NE 2nd Street (see Broward link below for photo). It was entered into the National Register of Historic Places in 2007. A Lustron house in Boca Raton is recorded as demolished. One may still exist on Biscayne Boulevard in Miami and another is listed as being on 59th Street near the Miami International Airport.

The largest assembly (60) of Lustron houses, was at the U.S. Marine military base in Quantico, VA. Information and history about the low-maintenance units is still being researched and compiled by the Lustron Preservation Organization (www.lustronpreservation.org). Some estimate that 2,000 still exist, a testimony to their structural integrity.

Sources:

* Fetters, Thomas A. Lustron Home: The History of a Postwar Prefabricated Housing Experiment. McFarland and    Company. Jefferson, NC: 2002
*Lodi News-Sentinel, March 26, 1948
*Miami News, Jan. 13, 1951
* Wikipedia













Monday, January 5, 2015

Hiaasen: name among novelists, journalists and Fort Lauderdale pioneers


Fort Lauderdale
By Jane Feehan

Fans of award-winning writer Carl Hiaasen usually associate his name with one of his many novels set in Miami or with the Miami Herald, where he contributes a column. But few know that his grandfather Carl Andreas Hiaasen was a Fort Lauderdale pioneer.

The elder Hiaasen was born in North Dakota in 1894. After earning a law degree at the University of North Dakota in 1922, he was enticed to come to booming Fort Lauderdale by World War I buddy Charles McCune. Hiaasen gladly went south to seek adventure but his plan was to return home.

The native North Dakotan’s early adventures in Florida included teaching and preaching. Then McCune asked him to join a law firm—Fort Lauderdale’s first—that he established with attorney C.P. Weidling; Hiaasen took up his friend’s offer and never returned to North Dakota.

He didn’t have much time to think about home. There was enough work at the law office to keep two dozen lawyers busy 24 hours a day. Hopeful developers were flocking to the fledgling Fort Lauderdale (established in 1915) and needed legal expertise for their land deals.

The firm became known as McCune Hiaasen and later McCune, Hiaasen, Kelley (and Fleming was added). Carl Hiaasen served as Port Everglades attorney, as counsel to Hollywood founder Joseph Young, to the City of Fort Lauderdale and to a number of other high-profile clients.

Hiaasen married and had one son Kermit Odell, who also practiced law and is father of today’s novelist, Carl Hiaasen.  The senior Carl Hiaasen worked until his firm disbanded in 1990. During his career, the Fort Lauderdale pioneer was lauded in at least eight Who’s Who books and was a member of the bar of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1926. He died at his Coral Ridge home in June, 1994, a few weeks after his 100th birthday.

Sources:
Palm Beach Post, Feb. 14, 1935
Miami News, April 12, 1950
Boca Raton News, June 16, 1994
Weidling, Philip J. , Burghard, August. Checkered Sunshine. Gainesville: University of Florida Press (1966).



Tags:Fort Lauderdale in the 1920s, Fort Lauderdale pioneers, film researcher, Carl Hiaasen

Saturday, December 20, 2014

First U.S. high-speed hydrofoil sails from Port Everglades


By Jane Feehan

The nation’s first oceangoing hydrofoil, the H.S. Denison, sailed out of Port Everglades February 2, 1964 for a sea trial. The vessel, first of its kind designed for high speeds over rough waters, was scheduled for passenger service between Fort Lauderdale and Nassau.

Capt. P.O. Clarke ran the vessel through an impressive test. At 23 knots, the 104.6 foot Denison began to rise from the water. At 30 knots it was free from the seas and at 50 knots it was “flying” on its foils with the hull five feet above the ocean.

Though its sea trial was impressive, the Denison remained an experimental vessel, a disappointment to many. The project, initially developed by the Marine Administration (MARAD) of the U.S. Department of Commerce, Aircraft Engine Corporation and General Electric, was coordinated by enthusiastic supporter Charles R. Denison in 1958. The group’s objective was to research possibilities for express cargo shipping and passenger travel at 200 knots. Dension died early in the ship’s design, which diminished impetus for and focus on the project in the years that followed.  

It was reported that 73 companies collectively invested more than $8 million to develop the hydrofoil named posthumously for its most ardent supporter. General Electric built a 14,000 horsepower gas turbine engine for the experimental 94-ton ship. The vessel was completed and launched June 5, 1962 by Grumman Corp. in Oyster Bay, Long Island. Sea trials commenced a few days later and were conducted along the eastern seaboard from Maine to Florida in ocean waters as high as nine feet.

The U.S. Navy withdrew its support of the project to pursue development of its own hydrofoil, which affected commercial plans for the H.S. Dension. Today, a ferry service from Port Everglades to Bimini operates at about 32 knots for passenger and cargo transport—considerably slower than Charles R. Denison envisioned during the 1950s. Maybe speed is why a solid business model for ferry service in this market seems elusive.

Sources:
Miami News, Feb. 2, 1964
www.foils.org/denison.htm




Tags: Fort Lauderdale history, Fort Lauderdale historian, Port Everglades history, film researcher, hydrofoils, maritime history

Friday, November 14, 2014

Kalem films Miami: "Paradise of the eastern south, the California that is right at home"

Opening in Jacksonville, 1914*
Robert Vignola, director; Kenean Buel, 
writer, actor, director, studio manager

By Jane Feehan

Miami attracted a series of filmmakers in its early days (see labels for additional posts on the subject), including D.W Griffith in 1919. One of the most prolific in the business was the Kalem Company who filmed daily life in Miami as early as 1913. 

Kalem's L.A. Darling came to Miami in March of that year and his activities made front page news of the local paper.

He produced 14 films in a matter of days capturing shots of tourists at the Royal Palm hotel, millionaire yachtsmen returning from a day of fishing, the Great Commoner William Jennings Bryan—a new resident of Coconut Grove—and pioneer and large land holder Mary Brickell. He also filmed six Seminoles in traditional dress. It was reported that the “film was to advertise to the continent the Paradise of the eastern south, the California that is right at home.”

Darling’s mission was to film an accurate representation of life in the sub-tropics, including its ocean waters, palm trees and coconuts. One film, aimed at the “lady suffragettes,” showed Mary Brickell “bossing the job” or directing a man as he gathered coconuts. Another shows one of Seminoles at “Indian headquarters, Girtman’s Cash grocery,” who, only after much cajoling, moved around for the camera. The Seminoles were convinced Darling didn’t know what he was doing; they assumed the only pictures were still shots.   

Political celebrity William Jennings Bryan, who served as congressman for Nebraska, ran for U.S. president three times and later argued for the state in the Scopes trial, came to Coconut Grove to build a home in 1913. Darling caught him on film with his sleeves rolled up directing construction workers on the site.The filmmaker regretted he hadn’t stopped by three weeks earlier when he could have found Bryan hoeing in his radish patch.
Bryan home in Coconut Grove, 1922. **

Darling also captured shots of a grapefruit packing house, residential neighborhoods and traffic in business areas. His work took a matter of weeks, including the making of negatives to sell to local movie houses. Theater owners needed lots of product to change up programs on a weekly or even daily basis.

Established in New York City in 1907 and operating from 131 West 24th Street, Kalem Company filmed on location throughout the U.S and Ireland. They opened studios in California and Jacksonville and in doing so, became the first company to film year-round. The company made the first Ben-Hur and the first adaptation of 
Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde. Its legacy includes more than 1,200 films including several about Florida: The Seminole’s Vengeance, A Florida Feud: or, Love in the Everglades, In Old Florida, St. Augustine, Florida, the Celery Industry in Florida, and Cypress Logging in Florida.

Kalem was purchased in 1917 by Vitagraph Studios.

*State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/5975 - opening in Jacksonville 1914
Sources:

** State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/32186 bryan home by Fishbaugh, W. A.(William A.), 1873-1950

See more on William Jennings Bryan at Jane's Bits: http://bit.ly/1oMQmt5

Sources:
Miami Metropolis, March 12, 1913
Miami Metropolis, March 13, 1913
Mast, Gerald. A Short History of the Movies. New York: Pegasus, 1971
Wikipedia
IMDB.org
Florida Memories



Tags: early filmmakers in Florida, Fort Lauderdale historian, Miami historian, Florida movie studios, Kalem Company,Jane Feehan film researcher, Miami history

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Al Capone and "Capone Island" Deerfield Beach: facts and folklore

Capone in 1930 (FBI) see below*

Al Capone folklore in Florida is nearly as ubiquitous as that of George Washington visiting towns in the northeast. For our first president, many of the stories were, indeed, the facts behind the battles fought during America’s War of Independence.

Not so with gangster Capone. Yes, he did live and die on Miami’s Palm Island. He did drive up the South Florida coast for recreation and to seek business opportunities during the boom times of the 1920s. But he did not buy what became known as “Capone Island” in the Intracoastal Waterway off Deerfield Beach.

During 1928 or 1929, the gangster and a few friends stopped at a speakeasy just south of Boca Raton, where Capone viewed a peninsula jutting out into the water off the north bank of the Hillsboro Canal west of the Intracoastal Waterway. The secluded, vacant property probably looked like an ideal place to conduct some bootlegging biz during Prohibition. Capone made an offer for the southeast portion of the peninsula.

A Saint Petersburg, FL, newspaper reported in 1930 that Judge Vincent C. Giblin, “chief of Al Capone’s legal staff in Miami,” was going to buy the property where Capone was to build a residence for $250,000 and a pool for $125,000. This was, no doubt, hyperbole. The Chicago gangster had paid only $40,000 for his Palm Island digs in 1928. The reporter editorialized that Capone’s “presence in Miami is destructive; his presence in Broward County, close to the Boca Raton Club in Palm Beach County will be destructive to the club and both counties.”

The state was willing to make a deal but the transaction never materialized for two reasons: Boca Raton residents did not want Capone in the neighborhood and the state wanted a road to be built on the property. The road was the deal breaker; Capone walked away. Anyway, he would not have had much time to enjoy it.  In 1932, at 33 years old, he was convicted of tax evasion and sent to Alcatraz for seven years.

Today the 53-acre property is Deerfield Island, operating as a Broward County park since 1981 after it was leased from the state for 99 years. Waterway dredging during the 1960s created a canal, which turned the peninsula into an island (Capone's vision?) The park serves as a popular Boy Scout camp, wildlife refuge and recreational area for boaters and hikers.

See more on Capone on this blog.
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Sources:
Evening Independent, Saint Petersburg, FL. July 19, 1930
The Day, New London, CT, Jan. 25, 1985

"Al Capone in 1930" by Wide World Photos, Chicago Bureau (Federal Bureau of Investigation) - http://gottahaveit.com/Al_Capone_Original_1930_s_Wire_Photograph-ITEM14763.aspx. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Al_Capone_in_1930.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Al_Capone_in_1930.jpg






Tags: Al Capone, Capone in Florida, Deerfield Island, Broward County history, Fort Lauderdale historian, Miami historian

Monday, September 1, 2014

Rex Ingram on Miami film studio: We got no cooperation on Passion Vine

Miami Daily Metropolis, March 22, 1923

By Jane Feehan

“Next movie will tax all Miami facilities for scenes and props,” the Aug, 22, 1922 Miami Daily Metropolis headline claimed.

The picture, Passion Vine, set in the South Pacific and directed by Rex Ingram (1892-1950), would include a live shark attack, a palm-tree-lined beach, and jungle waterfalls for the climatic final scene. Props would also include musical instruments, an assortment of odd articles and a collection of “natives.” The natives were provided by Seminole Willie Willie. The Indians, said Miami Studios, Inc. principle John Brunton, held a highly developed dramatic instinct, weeping realistically and enacting mob scenes with a singular expertise.

The story rang enthusiastic for the budding movie industry in Hialeah, a Miami suburb. Dublin-born Ingram was considered “one of the world’s best, if not the best, directors in the world.” To have him make a picture with wife and popular leading lady Alice Terry (1899-1987) at the Hialeah studio was a promising sign of things to come.

A news story nearly four months later did not wax as enthusiastic. On Dec. 1, Ingram, as he was to leave with his crew to film the valley scene in Cuba instead of Puerto Rico, complained that he should have visited Miami first himself, instead of sending a representative.  

Ingram told the reporter that the picture cost $125,000 over budget and that they should have wrapped it up three weeks earlier. Rains dogged the production. “I didn’t know I was coming to Miami in the middle of the hurricane season.”  He also groused about the lack of studio equipment, poor laboratory work and incompetent assistants.  

“We got no cooperation at Hialeah,” said Ingram. “Workers did not take to pictures seriously.” Some were told to stay late to finish painting the set one night and instead left at 5 to see a picture show; he and his crew had to find brushes and complete the work themselves.

Ingram did not leave without thanking Brunton, whose hands, the director said, were tied because of the lack of capital. He heaped praise on those who provided their beach-side houses and pools for some of the scenes and thanked Captain Thompson for rounding up a few sharks for the drama.

The movie, based on John Russell’s novel, Passion Vine, is also known as Where the Pavement Ends. The film is lost. The picture, with its “cast of 1000s” opened in Miami at the Fairfax in March, 1923. Before making the Passion Vine, Director Ingram considered Black Orchids, and Trifling Women to be his best works.

Ingram opened a studio in France in 1923 where, perhaps, he found more cooperation, dryer weather and better equipment. He left the movie industry a year or two later after a failed picture he made in Morocco and returned to Los Angeles where he sculpted and wrote.  Hialeah dropped out of the picture making scene not long afterward.

For more on the Hialeah studio, see my other blog at:

Sources: 
Palm Beach Post, April 10, 1922
Miami Daily Metropolis, Aug. 22, 1922
Miami Daily Metropolis, Dec. 1, 1922
Miami Daily Metrolpolis March 22, 1923
Wikipedia




 Tags: Miami history, Hialeah history, Miami film industry, film researcher, Jane Feehan 


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Frontier hotel Peacock Inn and the Mother of Coconut Grove

Peacock Inn circa 1900

By Jane Feehan

Joining the pantheon of South Florida pioneers that includes Julia Tuttle, Henry Flagler and Frank Stranahan are Charles and Isabella Peacock of England. The two were encouraged to come to the area by Charles’ brother Jack, keeper of the House of Refuge near what is now Miami Beach.

The Peacocks, who operated a meat business, left England in 1875 to come to the wilds of Florida with their three boys, Charles, Alfred and Harry. They made their way via New York and Key West to Fort Dallas at the mouth of the Miami River, an outpost that pre-dated the “Magic City.”

“We conducted a trading post and exchanged merchandise and commodities with the Indians who brought in gopher skins, plumes, corn and pumpkins,” recalled Harry Peacock in 1917 (Metropolis, July 27, 1917). “Besides trading, we also manufactured starch from komtie [coontie] selling that in Key West.”
  
After seven years the family built an inn at Jack’s Bight (named for Jack Peacock) in Coconut Grove. Built with “beach combed wood” the hotel opened in 1882 or 1883. The only hotel on the mainland between Key West and Lake Worth then, the Bayview House, as they named it, quickly attracted visitors. At times they were unable to accommodate all who wanted to stay. Rates were $1.50 a day, $7-9 a week or $30-$35 a month.

The inn housed a post office and courthouse and served as focal point of the growing community. According to the Miami News (Jan. 8, 1964), its visitors included President Grover Cleveland, actor Joseph Jefferson, playwright Henry Guy Carlton, author Kirk Munroe and Arthur Haigh of distillery fame who eventually bought Cat Cay. During the 1890s, railroad magnate Henry Flagler stayed there; by that time it was known as the Peacock Inn. There were five houses in the area when the Peacocks opened their hotel. Observing Isabella’s connection with the growing settlement, hotel guest Flagler nicknamed her the “Mother of Coconut Grove.” She served as “doctor, judge, minister and friend to the community.”

Life in the settlement seemed to suit pioneer Isabella. She mastered the art of cooking frontier style, serving stewed venison, boiled Seminole squash, corn pone, turtle fry, roast wild hog and turkey. She helped found the Church of the Union Chapel where Henry Ward Beecher’s nephew once preached and where she held the first Sunday school class in South Florida.
Peacock Park

Aging and infirm, Charles Peacock sold the hotel in 1902 to G.F. Schneider of Philadelphia who converted it into a school.  Charles Peacock died in 1905; Isabella in 1917. The Peacock Inn was torn down in 1926, its site purchased by the City of Miami in 1934. Established as the Coconut Grove Bayfront Park, the site was renamed in honor of the Peacocks in 1973.  Isabella and Charles picked a beautiful location for their inn; it’s one of the toughest spots in town to get a parking place today.

 ------------
Sources:
Metropolis, July 31, 1902
Metropolis, July 27, 1917
Miami News, March 6, 1958

Palm Beach Post, Jan. 8, 1964

Tags: Peacock Inn, Miami history, Isabella Peacock, Charles Peacock, Fort Lauderdale historian, Miami historian