Saturday, September 23, 2017

Largest electric road sign in U.S. - Vero Beach, 1925



By Jane Feehan

Seems the citizens of Vero, as it was called in its early days, had big plans for their tiny community in 1925. On January 10 of that year, town notables, residents and guests gathered to dedicate the “largest electric road sign in the United States.” It bore the slogan— still used today—Vero, where the tropics begin.

Erected at the corner of Dixie Highway and Seminole Drive (then the main street through Vero) the illuminated sign spanned 50 feet, stood 10 feet high and was suspended 40 feet above the pavement. The sign was built for $2,000, a hefty sum for that time. It was paid for by residents and property owners.

Among the guests that day was Chicago developer Frank Croissant, who had established a reputation in Fort Lauderdale as developer of several communities, including Croissant Park.  No doubt, the people of Vero had high hopes for similar development in their town. The Fort Lauderdale News touted Croissant as the “greatest city builder of the country.”

Vero Beach today, near the ocean
The unveiling of the sign, which was “illuminated more elaborately than anything of its kind in the history of Florida,” was celebrated with a three-gun salute and 25 shrieking sirens, a live band and street dance.

The town, established in 1919, remained a sleepy agricultural center for decades.

Today with subdued (compared to that of South Florida), development of elegant communities, Vero Beach is home to Piper Aircraft and a growing list of celebrities—including Gloria Estefan—seeking a quiet alternative to the traffic and congestion of Broward and Miami-Dade counties.


Sources: 
Fort Lauderdale News, Jan. 9, 1926
COVB.org
Wikipedia




Tags: Vero Beach history, Fort Lauderdale history, Frank Croissant

More restaurants, nightspots of the 1960s - Fort Lauderdale

Fort Lauderdale,  Broward County ... South Florida ... all were booming in the 1960s. Below are ads from some of the popular dining and club spots of 1963-1965. None remain open.  For a more comprehensive list, see:
http://janeshistorynook.blogspot.com/2014/04/those-1960s-fort-lauderdale-night-spots.html












Tags: Fort Lauderdale history, Fort Lauderdale nightspots, Fort Lauderdale restaurants

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Sears story in Fort Lauderdale didn't begin with Searstown


By Jane Feehan

Sears, Roebuck and Company, founded in 1886, has had its ups and downs over the years. The largest retailer in the United States until 1989, it now occasionally announces store closings. When it does, many Fort Lauderdale residents wonder if Searstown on Federal Highway at Sunrise will be shutting its doors. As of this posting, the landmark department store remains open. Few know the history of Sears in Fort Lauderdale; it did not begin with Searstown.
Opening day on South Andrews, 1937

Sears opened its first Fort Lauderdale store Jan. 7, 1937 at 101 S. Andrews Ave. Mayor Lewis Moore (in office 1937-39) officiated at the event along with Chamber of Commerce President J.D. Camp. A reported 2,000 residents “thronged” to the 19,000 sq. foot store. With plenty of product lines to choose from, the store also operated an automotive department offering free tire and battery servicing to those who purchased the products at Sears. Opening day was so busy Store Manager E.E. Carroll summoned additional help to assist at registers and in the aisles.

Sears’ business continued to expand in the growing city. In 1955 the new Searstown opened at 901 N. Federal Hwy where it entered memories of current long-time residents. The transition day between the closing of the store on South Andrews and the opening on Federal was the first business day
Rendering of Searstown before opening in 1955
 Sears had closed in its then 18 years in Fort Lauderdale.  Searstown, touted as having plenty of parking, which it still does, was anchor store to a collection of 15 other businesses by 1958: grocer Piggly Wiggly (second largest in the center), Billet Doux Card Shop, Stevens Bakery, Dr. Harold S. Doubleday, optometrist, Pribbles Jewelry, Searstown Beauty Salon, Chat-N-Nibble Sandwich Shop, Deluxe Barber Shop, Monty’s 5 & 10, Gift Box, Broward Drug and Surgical Supply, the Religious Shop, Dr. William Migden, physician and surgeon, and Town Properties Realty.

By 1958, Searstown was upgraded in the Sears roster of highest revenue producers to number 75 out of its top 122 stores. I wonder how it ranks today … 



Sources:
Fort Lauderdale News, Jan. 6, 1937
Fort Lauderdale News, Jan. 7, 1937
Fort Lauderdale News, Aug. 10, 1958

Tags: Fort Lauderdale history, Florida retail history, South Florida history, Broward County history,

Jane Feehan

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Fort Lauderdale's Victoria Park - then and now

January, 1925


This advertisement came out less than two years before the devastating hurricane of 1926 that ushered in the Great Depression in Florida before it cast its shadow across most other states.

And today? Recent sales include homes from $490,000 to $1.1 million. Others on the water exceed that. The area, which sits behind the Gateway Theater and along the Middle River, includes 30 percent of Fort Lauderdale's historically significant properties. About 10,000 residents call this beautiful neigborhood home.




Tags: Fort Lauderdale neighborhoods, Fort Lauderdale history

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Florida's floating islands


By Jane Feehan 

Lakes with floating islands dot the globe in countries with marshlands, notably in Tasmania, Brazil, Congo, Burma, The Netherlands and the U.S. Central Florida touts a number of them, drawing the interest of tourists and scientists.

Orange Lake, located in Florida’s Alachua and Marion counties, and part of the St. Johns River system, floats several of these aquatic wildlife habitats. In 1937 this body of water made headlines and postcards as “Lake of a Thousand Floating Islands.”

A floating island, or tussock, comprised of plant root systems of cattails, reeds, bulrush and other species, occurs when water runs too deep for roots to reach bottom, so they orient toward the surface for oxygen. Some islands are small, others expand to acres in size and grow trees. One island with a maple tree was featured decades ago in Robert Ripley’s Believe it or Not compendium of the bizarre. Some say these island trees serve as sails when windy, eerily moving a root system across the water. Documented as growing eight to 50 inches in diameter, island-dwelling trees generally live a decade or two.

Floating islands in Florida serve as home to raccoons, aquatic rabbits, a variety of birds and at times, alligators. Bass fisherman and tourists flock to Orange Lake, which loses about 30 percent of its water each year through a network of sinkholes, an important feature of the area’s hydrology.
Orange Creek Basin,
Osceloa Co.

Orange Lake may be the best known Florida lake for floating islands but others are located in Lake Yarbo in Winter Garden, and Lake Buckeye and Lake Idyl in Winter Haven. Anglers find floating islands to be a nuisance. So does the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Bureau of Invasive Plant Management, which spent more than $18 million in 2004-2006 for cleaning up organic buildup adversely affecting fish and wildlife habitats. BIPM is the largest program in managing invasive species on public lands in the U.S.

Tourist attraction or nuisance, Florida’s floating islands add to the area’s semi-tropical mystique.  

Sources:
Ocala Star Banner, Dec. 28, 1953
Ocala Star Banner, Jul. 31, 1986
St. Johns Water Management District
Wikipedia
University of Florida
Florida Department of Environmental Protection


Tags:
Florida, Jane Feehan, floating islands, tourism, semi-tropics, history, Orange Lake

Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day and somber numbers







Memorial Day is about remembering those who died in the service of our country.  Beginning each class I taught in American history with this sad tally, I hoped to establish a perspective and to set the context for the rest of the course.

Not all conflicts are listed below and many more died serving America. Some numbers are estimates and may differ, depending on the sources, but the point is made.

US War for Independence 
6,800 to 8,000  
About 17,000 servicemen were thought to have died from disease

Civil War
620,000 to 750,000

World War I  - The Great War
110,000-116,000 (Great Britain lost more than  900,000; France lost one in four of its male population)

World War II
About 407,000

Korean War
54,246

Vietnam
58,209

Afghanistan and Iraq
About 6,700


Tags: US Military deaths, Memorial Day



Sunday, May 8, 2016

What Depression? Miami economy kicks it - 1937






Though most of the nation was struggling to climb out of the depths of the Great Depression during the late 1930s, Miami’s Mayor Robert R. Williams waxed optimistic about greater Miami's  growth:

In 1937:
  • Hotel inventory reached 350, with 60 built that year.
  • Visitors could also find lodging among 6,000 available apartment units.
  • More houses were constructed—3,500—in 1937 than in any year of its history.
  • Eastern Airlines was doubling round trip winter flights between New York (five) and Chicago (three)  and  Miami; it was adding five new 21-passenger Douglas DC-3s
  • October air passenger traffic to South America from Miami was up 20 percent  from the previous October.
  • Florida East Coast and Seaboard Airline railways added extra equipment to transport passengers from Jacksonville to Miami.
  • Out of  eight million pounds of fish caught and shipped from Florida, five million were fished from waters off Miami.
  • The first of many expected mega yachts arrived at the Miami Yacht Basin, the 188-foot Arcadia owned by Mrs. Huntington Reed Hardwick of Boston.
  • Bayfront Park at Biscayne Bay was to host 45 operas and concerts that winter season.
  • The Orange Bowl (played since 1935), the Lipton Trophy sailing race, and the Miami to Nassau sailing race were expected to draw thousands of spectators.


Sources: Wall Street Journal, Dec. 18, 1937

Tags: Miami in the 1930s, Miami tourism, Miami history, Jane Feehan, film researcher, Eastern Airlines, Douglas Aircraft