Venice of America — Gateway to the Everglades

Venice of America --  Gateway to the Everglades

The City of Fort Lauderdale lies along the east coast of Florida, bisected by the Intracoastal Waterway running north and south, with the New River running seven miles west to east, terminating at New River Sound running several miles north to south. The New River bisects the City into northern and southern halves. Altogether the City has more the a hundred miles of waterways. It has been said that erstwhile New York City advertising executive Commodore Avylen Harcourt Brook coined the moniker ‘Venice of America’ in recognition of the city’s ubiquitous waterways, many natural, many dredged to create residential ‘finger isles’.

Even before Brook arrived in 1919 to retire to his home ‘Brookside’ in the Waverly subdivision, Governor Napoleon Bonaparte (1905-1909) began a program to dredge four canals from the Everglades to the Florida east coast to drain the wetlands for farming. By 1912, the dredging of the extended New River Canal had finally reached Lake Okeechobee. Farmers and fishermen could now trade their goods between the Lake and Fort Lauderdale. Moreover, for a $15 fare tourists could ride steamers from Fort Lauderdale to Fort Myers on the west coast by way of the extended New River Canal, west across Lake Okeechobee, down the Caloosahatchee River to Fort Myers. The round trip took three days. By 1912, Fort Lauderdale had become known as the ‘Gateway to the Everglades’, a catch-phrase now on the masthead of the Fort Lauderdale Sentinel newspaper.

The interesting hatch drawing here represents the vision of New York City planner Richard Schermerhorn, Jr. for New River parkways, with wide streets and sidewalks, concrete benches, trees and generous plantings along the way. Just a few months after approval of the new City Plan, the collapse of the real estate market, the 1926 hurricane, and the Great Depression all combined to destroy Schermerhorn’s plan. Collection of the author.

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