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Las Olas Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale

Updated on September 26, 2016

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.


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.


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 ...

Click thumbnail to view full-size

My story


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.


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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