Fort Lauderdale is a sunny enclave in the southeastern coast of Florida known mostly for its world class beaches and yachts. Like most cities in South Florida, Fort Lauderdale is quite young having been formally established in 1911. Despite the city’s recent institution there is no shortage of significant landmarks for the history buffs to explore.
An immersion in Fort Lauderdale’s history
Nestled in downtown, History Fort Lauderdale campus houses three museums – the largest collection of historic buildings in Broward County. The History Museum, located in the New River Inn, one of the earliest hotels in the area dating back to 1905, contains exhibits that include artifacts from the first inhabitants of the area, the Tequesta Indians, Spanish conquistadors, Seminole culture and military history. The upper levels feature contemporary artwork.
The Pioneer House Museum is a 1907 residence that is set as if a Pioneer family were to return home for their evening meal. You’ll find a collection of antique toys, family bedrooms with clothing from the era and a sewing room, among other items that give a glimpse of Pioneer life in the early 20th century in South Florida.
The 1899 Schoolhouse Museum offers a look of what classrooms in the area were at end of the 19th century. Period correct wooden desks and McGuffrey Readers textbooks can be found. Guided tours are available every day. Beautiful views of the River are a plus.
A past of opulence
The Bonnet House is amongst the most unique historic houses and gardens in the nation, and one that captures the charm and whimsy of Old South Florida. The 1920 plantation style house sits on 35 acres of gorgeous waterfront property with exuberant gardens that are also home to wildlife.
Visitors can transport themselves to a bygone era with an impeccable mix of art, architecture and history inside the walls of the mansion. The estate was originally built as a winter retreat for Helen and Frederic Clay Barlett, an artist. Every room tells a story and the home is adorned with fanciful artwork from around the world and from their previous owners.
The gardens are as magical, a true oasis in the city. Situated on a coastal barrier island it encompasses different ecosystems, including the Atlantic Ocean beach, a freshwater slough and mangrove wetlands, roaming around you will find monkeys and majestic swans. The home was donated to the city in 1983 and now welcomes tours daily.
From the water
Just the fact that Jungle Queen Riverboat cruises have been entertaining locals and visitors since 1935 makes it historic. A tourism pioneer, the company offers a variety of cruises that helps you grasp why Fort Lauderdale is called the Venice of America. The fully narrated tours, some sightseeing and others including dinner and a show, let the participants gape at the mansions on Millionaire’s Row and impressive mega yachts through the canals.
The cruise has its own isle where guests can enjoy BBQ and watch exotic birds and animals, an alligator show and a collection of pictures that depict the evolution of both the city and the cruises. The Jungle Queen is a true institution in Fort Lauderdale with more than 70 years in operation.
If you have time
Consider stopping by the Stranahan House, the oldest surviving structure in Broward. Built in 1901 as a trading post it later served as the residence of Fort Lauderdale settlers Frank and Ivy Stranahan, the first schoolteacher in the county.