Category Archives: Fort Lauderdale

Author leads tour on the Intracoastal (without leaving the hotel)

Last year, I led my first tour on the Intracoastal Waterway about this time of year while aboard the ubiquitous WaterTaxi in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The participants were Road Scholars, a program devised by the Cambridge, Mass., non-profit organization that launched ElderHostel some years ago, today a worldwide lifetime learning program.A Road Scholar trip on the Intracoastal

Participants ranged in age from 50 to 75 who want something out of travel ,than just travel, a destination, and maybe the city bus tour with some history but mostly humor and tales my grandmother would never tell me.  The groups are comprised of highly intelligent former or current teachers, engineers, doctors and other professionals. The Road Scholar people think of everything to make the trip comfortable, interesting, and educational.  On the Intracoastal Waterway boat tour last year, I had a headphone and each Scholar had his or her own set of wireless, adjustable, channelized ear buds that masked out undesirable waterway noise, so that each Scholar could hear me–or not.

This year we were without our WaterTaxi, but we decided to use the ear buds anyway for comfort.  I gave a seventy-five minute talk on the history of the Intracoastal using PowerPoint slides that tell the story of how Florida got its section of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, a privately owned tollway before the Army Corps of Engineers assumed control and removed the six toll chains in 1929.  No one went to sleep during my talk.  Not one.  The venue for my lecture, The Riverside Hotel, could not have been more accommodating.  I’ll give four more lectures there in the coming weeks to more Road Scholars spending a week here.

The rest of the lineup is spectacular.  Patsy West, a leading expert on the Seminoles, will lecture on our Native American history and provide lunch in her charming turn-of-the-last-century Dade County pine, vernacular-style home on the New River.  Elliot Kleinberg, writer for the Palm Beach Post and author of numerous books on Florida history, including his award-winning book on the 1928 hurricane that devastated Palm Beach County and the Everglades, will also lecture in his energetic, humorous style. The Road Scholar people definitely have their act together.  Their online brochure even identifies activities by physical exertion level so you know ahead of time whether a particular tour is something within your capabilities.  If you’re looking for entertaining and educational travel plans, this program is for you. Look at their website near the time you’d like to travel. They have hundreds of listings throughout the country and the world.  Listings are subject to cancellation depending upon interest.

Website: http://www.roadscholar.org. The author has no financial interest in these travel programs. The author is paid an honorarium for each lecture just as he has been paid by other organizations for lectures at other times and places.

Commodore Avylen Harcourt Brook (1866-1946)

Commodore Avylen Harcourt Brook


Commodore Avylen Harcourt Brook was born in Sheffield, England, in 1866 into a family of silver and bronze electroplaters. His early education was in England. Brook studied art under the famous English artist and critic John Ruskin. It was said that one of his ‘parlor tricks’ was to paint two paintings simultaneously, one with his right hand, the second with his left hand.

He migrated in his early teens to Brooklyn, New York, where he soon became president of the Thomas Cusack Outdoor Advertising Agency. There, Brook created the famous Maxwell House “Good ’til the last drop” neon sign and turned Broadway into the ‘Great White Way’, with advertising signs everywhere in neon lights. As president, Brook was earning $25,000 a year, a princely sum in those days.

In 1919, at the age of 53, Brook retired. He sailed his 22-foot sloop ‘Klyo’ down the Atlantic coast to Fort Lauderdale where he lived in a modest residence named ‘Brookside’ on the New River; his sloop ‘Klyo’ docked in the back on the River. Brook had acquired the title Commodore from his leadership of at least two yacht clubs on the Long Island Sound. Brook had been a member of various groups that promoted the construction of a continuous inland waterway inside the Atlantic coast. In Fort Lauderdale, Brook represented Broward County as a member of the Florida Inland Navigation District (FIND), tasked with the duty of acquiring the old Florida East Coast Canal tollway and turning it over to the federal government for enlargement and perpetual maintenance.  When Brook died, downtown retailers closed for half a day in respect for Brook’s contributions to the community.

Commodore Brook rescues President-elect Warren G. Harding on New River Sound

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Short-statured Commodore Avylen Harcourt Brook ‘rescues’ President-elect Warren G. Harding aboard Brook’s 22-foot sloop “Klyo” after Harding’s houseboat cruising south on the New River Sound (now part of the Intracoastal Waterway) hits a snag “orchestrated” by Brook, the city’s unpaid public relations director, in 1921. Harding (white pants, waving his hat) annually took Florida cruises aboard houseboats furnished by politicians and friends. (Courtesy, Ft. Lauderdale Historical Society).

Whenever he was able, Harding played golf at the nine-hole Lauderdale golf links, a portion of today’s Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International  Airport, which during World War II was Naval Air Station – Ft. Lauderdale.  The Station trained hundreds of pilots, bombers, and navigators, including the future U.S. President, George Herbert Walker Bush.

Varieties of Florida Croton

Florida croton

                   Florida croton

There are seventeen varieties of the croton plant in Florida and other areas with subtropical climates.  The croton is generally salt tolerant and thrives in alkaline soils.  Croton grows relatively slowly and requires little care and maintenance.

 

 

 

 

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Original incorporator and director of the Florida canal company, James Colee (pronounced, ‘Coolee’) served as an engineer in the dredging of the Intracoastal Waterway until his death in 1912. Colee also served as state representative and county commissioner for St. Johns County and was a stockholder in the First National Bank of St. Augustine. In Fort Lauderdale, a bend in the New River is known as Colee Hammock and Colee is pronounced there as ‘Ko-lee’ Hammock. Colee is a French Huguenot name and pronounced throughout St. Johns County (St. Augustine) as ‘Coolee’. There is much confusion in Fort Lauderdale between William Cooley, justice of the peace in the New River area and whose family was massacred by the Seminoles in 1836 and James Colee who camped in the hammock there during his survey work for the waterway in 1893. Perhaps the difference in pronunciation led to the confusion between the two names. Courtesy, Donn R. Colee (an eighth generation native Floridian).

Commodore Brook “rescues” Harding

Owned by Commodore Avylen Harcourt Brook, the sloop Klyo “rescued” President-elect Warren G. Harding (in white pants, waving the hat) when the houseboat in which he had cruised hit a “snag” on the poorly maintained–and privately owned–Florida East Coast Canal (after 1929, the Intracoastal Waterway) at Fort Lauderdale in 1921. Born in Sheffield, England, in 1866, Brook retired at the age of 53 from a lucrative career in outdoor advertising to sleepy Fort Lauderdale in 1919. The short, stocky executive with a blonde ‘handlebar’ mustache acquired the title “commodore” from his association with several yacht clubs on Long Island Sound. An avid waterway enthusiast, Brook fought for a federal takeover of the Cape Cod Canal owned by August Belmont, who had constructed the waterway and charged tolls. In Florida, Brook would fight for a federal takeover of the Florida East Coast Canal and its conversion into the modern, toll-free Intracoastal Waterway from Jacksonville to Miami. 20130904-173446.jpg