Fort Lauderdale’s history hides in plain sight, tucked among downtown’s towering condos and restaurants. Take, for example, the New River Inn. The former hotel now serves as the headquarters of History Fort Lauderdale, which houses a collection of historic clothing, books, furniture, artwork, and other ephemera. The organization has also launched “Your Story is Our Story,” an exhibit showcasing belongings from pioneer families. “Every story is built off a family, and they all deserve to be remembered in some way, shape, or form,” says Ellery Andrews, the museum’s deputy director. Here, discover some cool facts and artifacts.
The Curator’s Corner sits at the top of the stairs leading to the second floor of History Fort Lauderdale, welcoming visitors to the exhibition space. This summer, the museum will be showcasing a collection of dolls—from traditional Seminole toys to porcelain playthings owned by Ivy Stranahan herself. You might find the collection a bit creepy, but Andrews says that’s exactly the point. “The dolls creep everyone out,” he admits, laughing.
Within the historic village on the Riverwalk is the King-Cromartie House, featuring interiors reflective of an authentic 1907 abode. However, the two-story house was not originally located there. In the late 1960s, the new owners planned to tear it down, but the Junior League of Fort Lauderdale stepped in and arranged for the 200-ton property to be moved across the river. Today, it sits safely next door to History Fort Lauderdale.
If there had been social media influencers in the 1920s, Juliette Lange would have been rolling in followers. The mezzo-soprano performed in musical comedies throughout the United States and Europe, but she always returned home to Laudy’s Rio Vista neighborhood. Visitors can view a selection of her cocktail dresses, beaded purses, hats, makeup, and newspaper clippings at the museum. Now that’s a “get ready with me” worth watching.
There’s no doubt that Fort Lauderdale has some gangster history—Capone’s bar on Himmarsheem is named that for a reason. But a popular tall tale running through town is that a historic manse on the New River was onced owned by mobster Bugsy Siegel. Unfortunately for tourists, it’s simply not true, and the current owners have even put up a sign declaring the location “Not Bugsy Siegel’s house!”
Wayne Huizenga—the man, the myth, the legend. The business magnate had stakes in local sports teams and businesses, including video rental chain Blockbuster. A section of the exhibit is dedicated to him, including a video case celebrating $150 million in Blockbuster stock circa 1993, plus a signed Miami Dolphins football from 1972’s “perfect season.”
History Fort Lauderdale’s archaeology room is getting a revamp later this year to permanently showcase Fort Lauderdale’s African American history. The museum is working with local groups to ensure that Black history isn’t just included in the museum, but that it’s told right. A name for the room is still in the works; an opening is planned for October.