House of History

Cities like Fort Lauderdale and Fort Worth were obviously named after military outposts, but in Fort Lauderdale the question is, To which fort are you referring? Long before the city was incorporated in 1911, a total of three rustic Army bases had been built in the area.

Completed in 1838, the first Fort Lauderdale was built in what is now the Sailboat Bend neighborhood, along the New River just west of downtown. It was abandoned less than a year later, when another fort was built near what is now the intersection of SE Ninth Avenue and Las Olas Boulevard. The third and final Fort Lauderdale, built less than a year after number two, was located along the beach, where it could be easily supplied by ships and defended from attacks.

Confrontations between whites and Seminole Indians precipitated the building of the multiple Fort Lauderdales, models and diagrams of which are housed in the Old Fort Lauderdale Museum of History, located in the New River Inn. The inn was originally built in 1905, but renovations to the three-story, cream-color building were recently completed by the Fort Lauderdale Historical Society. Exhibits on Florida and Fort Lauderdale history take up most of the rooms on the lower two floors of the old inn, which features Caribbean-influenced and South Florida-style architecture: mainly, wide porches and balconies that run the length of the building and gabled windows.

The turn-of-the-century inn was the first structure in Broward County to be put on the National Register of Historic Places. It was run as a hotel until 1955, when it was turned into a city hall annex, in which the city's building department operated until 1969. At that point the building was going to be torn down, but a citizen's group lobbied the city to save it. The inn was home to the Discovery Center children's museum from the early '70s until 1993, when the Museum of Discovery and Science opened.

The building in the Riverwalk area stood vacant for several years before the Historical Society began renovations. Says society executive director Dan Hobby: "We consider the building an important artifact itself."

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John Ferri