Friday, June 10, 2011

Florida History: A museum for Fort Lauderdale's Bahia Mar?

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By Jane Feehan

Bahia Mar, once home to the third fort built during the Seminole Wars and named for Maj. William Lauderdale was also the site of a House of Refuge in 1875 and later a Coast Guard station. Today, boats of all sizes from around the world berth at the scenic spot. The boat basin project, wending through the vagaries of city politics and developers' woes through the years is now recognized as a world class yachting center. Few remember that a museum was once planned as part of the project.

One of the original developers, Ohioan William E. Schantz of Universal Construction Company (of Ohio and Fort Lauderdale), formed the Bahia Mar Corporation to build the marina in the late 1940s.  An article about Schantz from the Miami News, Sept. 1, 1949, details plans he had to build a replica of the old fort across from the yacht basin “…using cabbage palm logs as did the Indian-fighters on the same spot on the high ground near the beach. This fort will become a museum housing old documents and relics of the early days of South Florida.”

The museum remained a pipe dream.  Bahia Mar Corporation defaulted on payments to the city two years after completion of the marina in 1949 and the city eventually took control of the property.
Weidling, Philip J., Burghard, August. Checkered Sunshine. Gainesville: University of Florida Press (1966).
Miami News, Sept. 1, 1949, p.4

Tags: Bahia Mar history, Fort Lauderdale history, Florida history

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