Sunday, July 24, 2011

Florida History: Fort Lauderdale's rise from the ashes of 1912


By Jane Feehan

On June 1, 1912, about a year after Fort Lauderdale incorporated as a city, fire destroyed nearly every building in its business district. At that time, the business district, not far from New River, comprised most of the small city.

Fort Lauderdale had no fire department. A bucket brigade mobilized to douse the fire without much luck. Fire departments from Miami and Palm Beach were dispatched to help but they arrived too late.

Lost in the blaze were the Stranahan, and Wheeler general stores, pharmacy, post office, meat market, grocery store, jewelry store, real estate office and the Fort Lauderdale Herald, the city's first newspaper. Only the Osceola Inn remained on Brickell Avenue (it burned to the ground the following year).

Within a few days, the city organized its first volunteer fire department, ordered a gas-operated pumper, and 1,500 feet of fire hose.  Fort Lauderdale City Attorney J.L. Billingsley, also a victim of the fire, told reporters that “Fort Lauderdale has the gamest little band of citizens that ever put a shoulder to the wheel, and they will pull together in rebuilding the town.”

Fort Lauderdale did recover with a little help from growing interest in the area.  Just beyond the horizon lay significant business expansion and population growth, which eased the financial burden of rebuilding.
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Sources:
Weidling, Philip J. , Burghard, August. Checkered Sunshine. Gainesville: University of Florida Press (1966)
Miami News, June 4, 1912, p. 2.


Tags: Fort Lauderdale fire, Fort Lauderdale's first volunteer fire department, Fort Lauderdale history

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