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Las Olas Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale

Updated on September 26, 2016
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The Las Olas area - Create Your Own History

Have you ever wondered what makes someone decide to write a book about a particular topic? In my case, it was my love for the place where I live. Most people know about Fort Lauderdale but do they know about the beautiful street that is often referred to as its 'jewel in the crown'?

Many people do and they flock to this wonderful area but even so, some people don't realize, as they walk down the tree-shaded avenue, that Las Olas has a huge amount of history and that the city as we know it started right here in the late nineteenth century.

I wanted to change that - I want to spread the word and tell the fascinating stories, so I wrote a book about the history of the place I love.I first visited Florida in 1985. My brother had lived in Fort Lauderdale for several years and so it was the ideal place for a wonderful vacation.

On the first night I was here, they took me to dinner - on Las Olas Boulevard - and I have been in love with the place ever since. It was several years later that I decided to move from England to South Florida and Las Olas was the place I wanted to be most of all.

Photographs © Andy Royston, book content © me - AKA Tropical Sun Design.

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Where I live

It has a charm that is almost European.

The street is lined by shady trees, every restaurant and café has an outdoor dining area, and running parallel is the famous New River; the reason Fort Lauderdale began in the first place.

If you visit the area, you'll be walking in the footsteps of early pioneers, movie stars, Seminole Indians, war heroes and even gangsters.

Everywhere you turn there's a piece of history dating back over a hundred years. That's why, when I decided to write about the people who made this area what it is today, I decided to call the book Create Your Own History.

That's exactly what you'll do. Knowing about the past and the events that have taken place on this wonderful boulevard over the years will help you to create your own memories. You may be here for only a few hours but you'll remember your visit always and in your own way, you'll be adding to the liveliness and background of this fascinating street.

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The people

No matter how wonderful a place is, it's always the people who make it special. Since our area first began, its history has been liberally peppered with true characters - and it still is.In the book you'll meet:

  • David Blum who used to walk up to strangers on the street and give them bananas
  • Early pioneer Cap Valentine whose love of whiskey became his downfall
  • Shirt Tail Charlie, a Seminole who took his first bath in the New River and scandalized the ladies who spread the news via the new-fangled telephone
  • Pink Cromartie whose discovery that her husband was a bigamist ultimately led to her demise
  • Merle Fogg, our first aviator who would wave to his friends as he flew his plane just above the boulevard's rooftops
  • Champ Carr, the lowly deckhand who married his boss' daughter and went on to run the finest hotel in the area
  • Bert Lasher who started the first tourist attraction and whose career was interrupted when he was jailed for stealing automobiles
  • Will Stranahan who mysteriously disappeared and was never seen again
  • DeSoto Tiger, a Seminole whose brutal murder in 1911 sparked off a chain of bloody events spanning thirteen years
  • And many more ...

Where can I buy the book?

I'm so glad you asked! It's available online - just click the link.

Whose footsteps are you following?

Walk in the footsteps of ...There are too many to mention here but this gives you some idea of the diversity of people whose footsteps you'll be following.

  • Connie Francis, George Hamilton and the stars of Where the Boys Are. This famous Spring Break movie was made at the Elbo Room where the boulevard meets the beach. In recent years, I've spotted Nick Nolte, Alec Baldwin, Cliff Richard and many many more
  • Airmen who were stationed in Fort Lauderdale during the Second World War. The wartime servicemen's center was on Las Olas and those stationed here included George Bush Sr. and the mysteriously lost airmen of Flight 19
  • Presidents including those such as Franklin Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon and John Kennedy. They walked this fabulous street too
  • First resident Frank Stranahan and his wife Ivy Cromartie - Fort Lauderdale's first schoolteacher - plus other early residents who created the city
  • John Ashley whose gang of outlaws terrorized Florida until they were gunned down by sheriffs in 1924, plus his mysterious and tragic lover, Laura Upthegrove
  • Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston who were filmed on the boulevard as you can see in the movie Marley and Me
  • Bootlegger Horace Alderman who was caught with his rum-running boat loaded with booze and tried to escape by shooting the coastguards. He was executed on Las Olas Beach
  • Early film directors such as D.W. Griffith and Alice Guy Blaché who made early movies here, the first being in 1917
  • Al Capone who was rumored to be buying a home here. He didn't, but many other gangsters such as Frank Costello, Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky frequented the area running illegal operations

It's strange to think, as you walk along Las Olas, that the rich, famous, infamous and eccentric have walked in the exact same place.

Don't miss ...

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My story

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When I moved to Fort Lauderdale I was adamant that I wanted to live in this fabulous area. It wasn't possible at first but I made sure that I lived nearby. After a couple of years, it was a dream come true when I finally found a tiny apartment exactly where I wanted to live.

Because of the development taking place in Fort Lauderdale at the time, my tiny apartment building was soon demolished to make way for a large condo building so I moved further along the street. The same thing happened. And again, and again.

But I'm still here and loving every minute.

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Sobre Las Olas

Here's a little trivia for you - that I think is interesting. Many years ago, whenever I used to search the internet for anything to do with our area, I would come across results for 'sobre las olas'.Now my Spanish isn't brilliant but I do know that this means 'over the waves'.

Eventually I gathered that it was a piece of music.Years later, I bothered to listen to it and realised how very well I know the piece - and I'll bet that you do too. Listen to the video below.

You might not recognise it at first but I'll bet that you do by the forty second mark.

© 2013 Jackie Jackson

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    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @mariacarbonara: Thanks for reading - I hope you visit one day.

    • mariacarbonara profile image

      mariacarbonara 4 years ago

      I don't know the area but interesting lenses like this make me want to visit! Thank you

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @jahamilton lm: Isn't it a wonderful place? There's a lot of history that many people aren't aware of.

    • profile image

      jahamilton lm 4 years ago

      I loved your lens. I lived in South Florida for years in the West Palm Beach area. Love the weather and the beaches, but the nostalgia available is a different dimension that we so often miss. Thanks for reminding us!

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @anonymous: It would be lovely. But I know the Merchants' Association and they are always complaining about lack of funds. Crazy really.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      @Flowerchild1946: Wish they still did that. Such a loving touch

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Flowerchild1946: What a lovely story! I imagine that the street is still the same in many ways as it was back then. I love the idea of your mum giving out flowers along the boulevard. There are still plenty of us Brits locally :)

    • Flowerchild1946 profile image

      Carol Brooks 4 years ago from Florida

      I lived in Ft. Lauderdale for a few years during the 1960s, and my mother, who was British, had a job as a flower lady on Las Olas Blvd. She was hired by the Las Olas Blvd. Merchants Association to stroll down the street pushing a cart full of fresh flowers and giving them out to people. She had a lovely English accent so she was quite a popular personality in the area. Your lens brings back memories. Thank you.

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @lesliesinclair: Next time - you'll love it!

    • lesliesinclair profile image

      lesliesinclair 4 years ago

      And to think that I missed this strip when I was down there in Miami.

    • profile image

      ConvenientCalendar 4 years ago

      What a great place!

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @RinchenChodron: That's something that seemed strange to me when I first came to live here. I'm from Yorkshire in England which isn't exactly Colorado but the town I'm from is in the foothills of the Pennines and it's a very hilly area! I suppose bike riding is easier though :)

    • profile image

      RinchenChodron 4 years ago

      I can tell you like it there. Personally, I live in Colorado and Florida is way too flat for me!

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @allaneaglesham lm: Thank you!

    • allaneaglesham lm profile image

      allaneaglesham lm 4 years ago

      This is a very informative lens that is just the right length. Thanks!

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Echo Phoenix: Oh, that is so nice of you! Thank you so much!

    • profile image

      Echo Phoenix 4 years ago

      Squidtastic! what an amazing dream come true. Your love of Fort Lauderdale is apparent and it seems to have been richly rewarding to follow the desire of your heart :) thank you for sharing this, I cannot wait to read your book which I am ordering right now... Namaste`

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @yanksbeast777: Try to come here one day - it's wonderful!

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @MelanieKaren: It's the best :) I was 40 when I moved here and thought if I don't do it now, I never will. It's one of the best decisions I ever made!

    • MelanieKaren profile image

      Melanie Wilcox 4 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      Congratulations on your wish come true :) I lived in a place called New Hope, PA for a year when I was 12. I never forgot it, as I absolutely loved it. Finally, at age 28 I was able to move there. I lived there for 15 years until I had to move here this past late Summer / Autumn. I've been to Florida several times - ocean and gulf - I love it!!!!!!!!

    • yanksbeast777 profile image

      yanksbeast777 4 years ago

      I would love to go to Las Olas Boulevard, especially after reading this lens! It seems to be really rich in history and culture!

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @OhMe: It's a lovey place - thanks!

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 4 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Oh Me! Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale sure sounds and looks beautiful. I enjoyed reading some of it's fascinating history. Thanks.

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @FloridaDino: Hi fellow Brit! You never know, anything's possible!

    • FloridaDino profile image

      FloridaDino 4 years ago

      A fellow Brit who loves Florida, been many times would love to move there (you lucky devil!). Great lens

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @gadifi lm: Thank you! It's a pleasure to photograph such a gorgeous place.

    • gadifi lm profile image

      gadifi lm 4 years ago

      very interesting lens it was great with the pictures

    • catywang profile image

      catywang 4 years ago

      i know nothing about it before , but learn a lot now , thank u

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @dakadare: I do hope you will - it's a lovely place!

    • dakadare profile image

      dakadare 4 years ago

      Never heard of it before, but now I want to go

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @LadyDuck: It's gorgeous, isn't it? I do hope you get the chance to come here again - if you do, call in and say hi!

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @jfjones1: That's so nice of you - thank you!

    • profile image

      LadyDuck 4 years ago

      I visited Fort Lauderdale a few years ago, Las Olas Boulevard is beautiful. I would love to visit again.

    • profile image

      jfjones1 4 years ago

      This was also worthy of being the LOTD. Unique, thrilling, captivating, personal and extremely interesting.

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @anonymous: I'll put the kettle on ... no, scratch that ... I'll get the wine open :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Beautiful! Can't wait to visit!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Beautiful! Can't wait to visit!

    • imagelist lm profile image

      imagelist lm 4 years ago

      Nice lens...

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @anonymous: Thank you for reading

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Very interesting lens. Thanks allot for sharing.

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @aesta1: Thank you!

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Really interesting. enjoyed reading your story.

    • katiecolette profile image

      katiecolette 4 years ago

      @BritFlorida: Your pictures are amazing. I'd love to come back for a visit, hopefully, one day :)

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Arod17: I hope you do :)

    • Arod17 profile image

      Arod17 4 years ago

      Great article I would love to read this book.

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @lgOlson: Thank you so much!

    • lgOlson profile image

      L. Olson 4 years ago from Northern Arizona

      Great article Brit, and good luck with your interesting book! You make your new home really captivating.

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @gilsoffthehook lm: You're welcome!

    • gilsoffthehook lm profile image

      gilsoffthehook lm 4 years ago

      @BritFlorida: Yes, that name sounds familiar, I believe that is the one - thanks for the info!

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @gilsoffthehook lm: If it's the one I'm thinking of, yes. It's called Native Visions / Call of the Wild. (lovely place!) There used to be another called Ikenga that was further east in the village section of the street. That moved and shared a space with Bohemian Style (my favorite clothes shop) but finally it closed. Native Visions is still going strong!

    • gilsoffthehook lm profile image

      gilsoffthehook lm 4 years ago

      There used to be a gallery on Las Olas Boulevard that sold a lot of South African/African art. Do you know if that gallery is still there?

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @katiecolette: I hope you come back one day! Many people see only the 'touristy' parts but there's so much to see and do. The wonderful thing is that because it's such a beautiful place you can enjoy it without spending money - I like that :)

    • katiecolette profile image

      katiecolette 4 years ago

      I have been to Fort Lauderdale once. I was brave enough to buy a truck on Ebay and flew to Ft. Lauderdale to pick it up :) Didn't get to do much sightseeing, but loved the parts of the city I drove through. I enjoy spending time in Florida, especially when it's cold back home.