Sunday, February 27, 2011

Florida History: The Governors Club Hotel, once Fort Lauderdale social hub

Governors Club  Hotel
Las Olas Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale
For more on RH Gore, see:

By Jane Feehan

The Governors Club, once located on Las Olas Boulevard, was built by Robert Hayes Gore, Sr., owner of the Fort Lauderdale News. For years, the hotel was a Fort Lauderdale landmark and gathering place for politicians, socialites and national notables.  

Gore (RHG) bought the Wilmar Hotel, an unfinished eight-floor steel skeleton in 1936 for $20,000. The original owner, William H. Marshall, first mayor of Fort Lauderdale, stopped work on the building during the 1920s when he ran out of money. Gore hired an architect and construction firm to resume the project and opened it as the Governor’s Club in December, 1937. (Gore was once governor of Puerto Rico.) 

Business license courtesy of
the Broward County Historical Commission
The Governors (the comma was deleted) Club operated from Thanksgiving until Easter each year until 1947 when it was opened year round.  In its early days, the hotel hosted singer Kate Smith, broadcaster Lowell Thomas, film maker D.W. Griffith and other celebrities who enjoyed its privacy. The Governors Club also became a popular spot for holiday dining, special occasions, and as refuge during hurricanes. State politicians often chose it as a site from where their key speeches were delivered.

The hotel faded over the years as competition for rooms shifted to the beach.  For more than a decade, the Governors Club lay vacant until it was demolished in 1995. A bid to preserve the hotel as a historical landmark failed.

Of legal note about the Governors Club is a Florida law holding builders responsible for their work. RHG successfully sued builder Fred Howland, Inc., shortly after construction began on the hotel, for shoddy workmanship (leaking windows and joints during storms), providing precedent for a Florida law. Copyright © 2011. All rights reserved. Jane Feehan.

Gore, Paul A. Past the Edge of Poverty. Fort Lauderdale: R.H. Gore Company (1990)
Burghard, August and Weidling, Philip A. Checkered Sunshine. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1966

Tags: Fort Lauderdale history, Fort Lauderdale hotels, Robert H. Gore, Sr.


Anonymous said...

The Governors' Club Hotel was named after the fact that the first Southern Governors' Convention was held there, not because RHG was Governor of Puerto Rico. The comma was not dropped and the hotel remained with the name as a plural possesive not a singular possesive. Uneducated painters would leave it as "Governors" on repaint assignments but they always had to go back and correct the mistake. RHG never sought or wanted namesakes on anything he developed except "R.H. Gore Orchids" on 9th Ave.

Jane Feehan said...

You are right about the conference; it held the first year the hotel opened. But what was the hotel called before that conference?

FaithHealer said...

Jane. I am from Puerto Rico and have lived in Broward since 1975. I had an opportunity to visit the building before it vanished. I was very surprised and intrigued when I stepped out of the elevator to find on the floor, made of colored terrazzo, the great seal of the governor of Puerto Rico. It was the circular version of the seal presented to the island by the Spanish crown in 1511.