Venice of America - Fort Lauderdale
Fort Lauderdale - the Venice of America
Fort Lauderdale, where I've been lucky enough to live for over twenty years, is known as the Venice of America.
(It's also known as Fort Liquordale, thanks to bootlegging activities during the prohibition but that's quite another story.) And its nickname is not surprising because of its vast network of waterways, canals and the famous New River.
I've lived here for so many years now and can't imagine living away from the water.Huge cruise ships leave and enter Port Everglades every day and yet there is every type of ship and boat on our waterways than you can possibly imagine.
Often, the waterways are bustling and busy but they also offer a wonderful and serene way to relax and see the locality. Water is known to be soothing to the soul and sitting peacefully watching boats go by is so relaxing.
In the very early days of this settlement, the New River was the growing settlement's major way of getting around before the days when roads were built.A vacation can be expensive but if you're looking for things to do in here that won't cost you a penny, sitting by the waterway and watching the boats go by takes some beating.
The Venice of AmericaClick thumbnail to view full-size
Fort Lauderdale Facts
A handful of facts from our history that you may not know.
- When the earliest settlers came to the region, the beach was only accessible by boat. The early pioneers only went to the beach for special occasions, such as Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter. They would take picnic food and enjoy a day on the beach. It wasn't until 1917 that the first bridge to the beach was built - and our area had taken the first steps towards becoming a tourist destination.
- During prohibition, it was illegal to sell or distribute alcoholic beverages. As you can imagine, the population of America developed creative ways to sidetrack this problem. Because the Bahamas and Cuba - which has no such restrictions - are so close by, Fort Lauderdale became a haven for bootlegging and illegally importing rum and other beverages into the country.
- The first film to be made in the area was made as long ago as 1920 by director D.W. Griffith. The movie was called The Idol Dancer and this budding city was chosen by the director because it resembled the South Seas. Many locals worked on the film as extras. Seminole Indians who lived in camps nearby were called in to play the parts of South Sea Islanders.
- During prohibition, a bootlegger called Horace Alderman was captured out at sea returning from the Bahamas with an illegal cargo of booze. In the ensuring battle with the coast guard. Alderman shot several coast guard crew members. He was later hanged at the coast guard station - right on Las Olas beach.
- If you fly into the area on vacation, the airport at which you land has an interesting history. It was originally called the Merle Fogg Flying Field. Fogg was a young man in his twenties who established the first air service in the area - on Las Olas Boulevard. He was killed in a tragic flying accident in 1928 and authorities named the flying field after him as a tribute. Now called the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood Airport, the original flying field opened in 1929, a year after Fogg's death.
- Fort Lauderdale is one of the three points of the Devil's Triangle. Shortly after the Second World War, Flight 19 - a squadron of air force airplanes took off from the military flying field on a routine exercise. They were never seen again. This was the first event that spawned the legends of the Bermuda Triangle,
- Johnny Weissmuller, who was famous for playing Tarzan in early movies, lived in Fort Lauderdale for many years. He had first come to the area because several of the Tarzan movies were filmed in the area. It was an ideal way to emulate the jungle. Weissmuller became an important figure at the Swimming Hall of Fame here; an attraction that you can still visit today.
- In 1926, a huge hurricane swept through the area. In those days, there was no warning and many homes had been hastily and improperly constructed. Newspapers throught America reported in their headlines that the city had been wiped out. This was a typical newspaper exaggeration but it's true that it was a devastating hurricane that caused an enormous amount of damage.
- In the days of Al Capone, most areas in South Florida were a popular places for gangsters. In fact, Capone himself looked at real estate in the area and there were string rumors that he was buying a home there. He didn't - he chose Miami instead but gangsters ran illegal gambling operations in our area for several years.
- In the 1930s, a lion farm was established in Fort Lauderdale. It was a business that bred lions for circus acts and zoos. A few years later a well-known animal trainer called Clyde Beatty bought the business and turned it into a zoo and attraction. The zoo eventually had to close because of complaints from the neighbors.
El Galeon visiting our waterways in May, 2013.
Want to know more about this wonderful place? We have everything right here - glorious weather, fascinating history, splendid dining and our area is well-known for being very gay-friendly.
When I first came to the area, I was told that there were so many restaurants in Fort Lauderdale that it was possible to have breakfast, lunch and dinner in a different one every day for a year.
I rather suspect that number has doubled now. You can eat inexpensively at a variety of fabulously fun diners or, if you've won the lottery, really push the boat out. A good dining guide is an excellent idea.
Because the area is so gay-friendly, several guides have been created - check them out. Please see the link below.
There are still areas in here that feature delightful Mid-Century Modern architecture. With luxury yachts moored outside, these buildings reflect beautifully in our gorgeous waterways.
Port Everglades is extremely busy every day with cruise ships leaving and arriving. Many people who come to Fort Lauderdale to cruise extend their vacations by spending a few days here, either before or after their voyage - and that's a great idea!
© 2013 Jackie Jackson