In the beginning, it was sanitation, or the lack of it, that inspired pioneers to found the city of Fort Lauderdale. The approximately 400 residents of the mosquito-ridden outpost at the swamp's edge craved basic services, particularly clean streets and privies. So on March 27, 1911, they incorporated as a town and named it after Major William Lauderdale, a Tennessee soldier who, during a brief five-week visit 73 years earlier, erected a fort in the area.The fledgling city was a scattering of buildings along the New River, the former site of a stage line's overnight camp and a whistlestop for the Florida East Coast Railway. Its boundaries were but a sliver of the present downtown.
The newly minted community was home to a mix of early residents: White traders and merchants. Seminole Indians who swapped pelts, gator eggs and egret plumes for goods. Blacks who stuck around after helping to build the railway a decade earlier. Their focus was the bountiful Everglades to the west; the beach, which would later provide the city's economic lifeblood, was largely ignored. Who would ever want to live on a beach?
Over its first century, Fort Lauderdale suffered through a devastating fire, hurricanes and a flood, a riot and racial tension. It sent youngsters to war and Indians to reservations. It segregated blacks and restricted Jews, partied on the river and beach, jailed corrupt officials, and confined the homeless to tents.
The actions of strong women are woven into the fabric of the city's history: pioneer Ivy Stranahan, who advocated for the Seminoles; activists Eula Gandy Johnson and Lorraine Mizell, who helped desegregate the beach; and Virginia Shuman Young, the first woman mayor a decade later.
As the city's population swelled, it underwent several transformations: trading post, shipping hub, gambling mecca, Spring Break destination, retirement haven, international resort and cruise port.
It was a far cry from the frontier hamlet whose first sanitation department consisted of a wagon and a mule.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times