Thanks to the foresight of Fort Lauderdale’s founders Frank Stranahan, Tom Bryan and others who formed the Las Olas Bridge Company in 1915, the thick mangrove swamp to the east of downtown was paved and bridged to the beach by January 1917. The project expanded the town’s boundaries and recreational opportunities while broadening its economic base.
Newspapers during the following decades reflect the hopes and dreams for the Las Olas area, today part of Fort Lauderdale’s central business district and, on its east end, site of the famous residential finger islands and canals that earned the city’s designation, “Venice of America.” Real estate investor Charlie Rodes started dredging the canals according to a method first used, he claimed, in Venice, Italy.
Another early project to create “made” land in the area described in one news story was probably that of M.A Hortt and Robert Dye who, after seeing the success of developer Carl Fisher in Miami Beach with land fill, created Idlewyld, a beautiful residential neighborhood off Las Olas Boulevard:
Captain Seth Perkins of Miami is engaged in pumping 2,500 cubic yards of sand and silt on a tract of 111 acres of tide lands along the New River, between Fort Lauderdale town and Las Olas beach. This made land fill will be converted into suburban home sites. (“Glimpses of Florida,” Miami News, July 15, 1920)
In 1934, during the tough Depression years, Civil Works Administration (CWA) projects helped make Las Olas a picturesque boulevard:
Due to the dredging … and to CWA activities in the city, the Las Olas causeway, leading to Fort Lauderdale beach, has undergone a complete transformation. … tied in with city-wide CWA projects, was the planting of 180 coconut palms … on the causeway. These have been placed 10 feet apart and in a few years will transform this causeway park into a coconut grove. (“Las Olas Span is Transformed,” Miami News, March 10, 1934)
Checkered Sunshine, Burghard, August and Weidling, Philip J. Gainesville: University of Florida Press (1966)
The Fort Lauderdale Historical Society: http://www.oldfortlauderdale.org