Thursday, May 5, 2011

Florida History: Port Everglades once Bay Mabel Harbor

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By Jane Feehan

Port Everglades opened as Bay Mabel Harbor in 1928.  Joseph W. Young visualized a “world class seaport” as part of his Hollywood-by-the-Sea development of the 1920s. 

The body of water was  known many years as Lake Mabel but some pointed out that the “lake,” which sat in both Hollywood and Fort Lauderdale, was actually a bay with ocean access. The really curious may ask about the Mabel part of the name.

It was reported in a 1926 Miami News story (Apr. 18, 1926, p. 10) that a Jacksonville resident made a survey of the area in 1870 and named what’s now Port Everglades as “Bay Mabel” for either the mother or wife of Arthur T. Williams. Who is Arthur T. Williams? He is the first to have platted a parcel of land for sale in Fort Lauderdale in 1887; it was to be called “Palm City.” The surveyor of Bay Mabel was his father.

When Bay Mabel Harbor opened in February, 1928, President Calvin Coolidge was supposed to hit a remote button to set off an explosive to clear final access to the ocean but for some reason he didn’t. Local engineers, to the disappointment of the crowd on hand for the occasion, set off the explosive instead.

Soon after, the Fort Lauderdale Woman’s Club held a contest to re-name the port. Port Everglades took the prize. And what happened to Joseph Young? He continued to develop Hollywood but because of the land bust and expense to dredge Bay Mabel, personally dropped out of the harbor project. Funding was left to the cities of Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood (acting as the Broward County Port Authority) and the federal government.

Gillis, Susan. Fort Lauderdale, The Venice of America. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2004.
Weidling, Philip, and Burghard, August. Checkered Sunshine. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1966.
Palm Beach Post, Sept. 21, 1925, p. 14.

Tags: Fort Lauderdale history, Port Everglades history, waterway history, Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood history, Lake Mabel, Florida in the early 1900s 

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