Perhaps in reaction to the heady, more innocent decade that preceded it, or as the result of a swollen population and unchecked growth, life in 1920s Fort Lauderdale became a little more wobbly, a bit more uncertain, characterized by great progress and bitter disappointments.
Underlying the decade's successes were racial tensions, dark deeds and natural disaster.
Buildings arose tall and swift: A courthouse, homes, hotels and emporiums showcased the region's unique Mediterranean Revival style. The first whiff of the development to come was evident in the dredging of mangrove swamps in eastern Fort Lauderdale to create finger island subdivisions for new landowners.
A New York investor, J.C. Turner, declared that "Lauderdale should be called the Venice of America." The phrase has also been credited to Commodore Auylan Harcourt Brook, one of the city's earliest boosters. There's no word on whether Venice began calling itself the Lauderdale of Italy.
But the Venice comparison was prescient, if not quite valid. The 36-square-mile city would eventually boast 165 miles of waterways.
Tourists discovered the area's benevolent weather and maritime recreation and flocked to the city by the hundreds in Henry Ford's inexpensive Model Ts, or Tin Lizzies.
City boosters exhibited their promotional skills in early 1921 when they "kidnapped" president-elect Warren G. Harding, who was sailing to Miami Beach for a brief vacation. Just north of the Las Olas Boulevard Bridge, a barge suddenly appeared and grounded itself, blocking Harding's passage.
Commodore Brook and Thomas Stilwell, who would later become publisher of the Fort Lauderdale Daily News and Sentinel, sailed up to Harding's yacht and good naturedly spirited him away for a round at the city's first golf course, site of today's international airport.
By mid-decade, the Florida land boom was in full swing. Driven by advertisements touting a tropical paradise, northern speculators bought land at a frantic rate. Lots in north Fort Lauderdale that sold for $200 three years earlier commanded prices of up to $2,000 in 1925. Downtown properties sold for 50 times their original price.
The city's black residents, however, were excluded from the decade's progress. A city ordinance restricted them to west of the FEC tracks. Ku Klux Klan members, in white robes and peaked hoods, marched the streets with impunity.
A four-room stucco building, "Colored School" inscribed above the door, was the city's sole concession to black education. The Stranahans, influenced by their black cook, Annie "Mother" Reed, deeded the land to build the school.
It was later named the Dillard School in honor of a white philanthropist.
In 1922, James Sistrunk, the city's first prominent black physician, arrived with a healing hand for his community. He is said to have delivered more than 5,000 babies during his career.
In 1926 the land boom turned bust. Speculators realized few could afford the inflated land prices, and panic selling swiftly occurred, causing prices to plummet.
On Sept. 18, 1926, a furious hurricane slammed into the city, flattening buildings and killing hundreds throughout the region.
In the aftermath of the storm and economic collapse, Fort Lauderdale's population nose-dived from a high of 13,000 during the boom to 4,800.
The city's original inhabitants, the Seminoles, also departed. Medicine woman Annie Tommie abandoned her camp near the New River's North Fork and settled in a reservation in what is now Hollywood.
The move came at the urging of Ivy Stranahan: If the Indians didn't occupy the reservation, they could well lose their federal tribal status. Tommie's camp was the last Seminole settlement in the city.
With Prohibition in effect, rum smuggling between Fort Lauderdale and the Bahamas prospered — and corrupted lawmen.
Fort Lauderdale's assistant police chief and six officers, as well as the county sheriff and all his deputies, were arrested in 1927 by federal agents for violating Prohibition. The charges were later dropped.
In 1929, a smuggler named James Horace Alderman was hanged at the site of the present-day Bahia Mar Marina for killing three men on a Coast Guard cutter.
That same year Frank Stranahan, who more than any other individual was responsible for the city's founding, put a tragic close to the decade by lashing his foot to an iron grate and drowning himself in the New River.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times