Darlene Foster's Blog

Historic Houses of Fort Lauderdale II

Posted on: November 14, 2011

After discovering the Bonnet House, I wanted more. The next day, I set off to find the Historic District. I started at Stanahan House, only to find it closed for a children’s Halloween party. I was assured it would be open that afternoon and a wonderful volunteer, Donna, guided me to the river walk which would take me to the Historic District. I set out, like Dorothy, down the red brick road; past river traffic, a bascule bridge letting tall sailboats through, the cultural centre, the science centre and finally, the history centre and museum.

river walk

Some buildings were closed but I walked around the first one room school house built in 1899, the King-Cromartie house built in 1907, and the Philemon Nathaniel Bryan House built in 1905, which was later used as a boarding house for young women whose husbands were in the service. Joined by a friendly wild goose, I wandered the lush grounds. The New River Inn, built in 1905, now the Fort Lauderdale’s Museum of History, was open. I enjoyed the displays depicting the native peoples and early settlers. Some good artefacts were exhibited and recordings of pioneers made it feel like a step back in time.


I meandered back along the lovely river walk to Stranahan House perched on the edge of the river with modern high rises behind. The well informed guide led us through the house, which started as the first trading post in the area in 1901 by Frank Stranahan. After marrying the first school teacher, Ivy Cromartie, he renovated the building and added on to it in 1906, to make it a family residence.

stranahan house

Ivy and Frank are considered the Founding Father and First Lady of Fort Lauderdale. In spite of their wealth they lived frugally. The house, with local wood panelled walls, is warm and cozy; but not ostentatious. Ivy made all her own clothes and ordered her set of Blue Willow China from the Sears catalogue. She had to quit teaching when she got married but volunteered to teach the local Seminole Indians to read.

Frank and Lily did not have any children but were very happy together. They often realaxed on the wide veranda watching the river traffic. When Frank discovered he had prostate cancer in 1929, he drowned himself in the river. Ivy fell on hard times during the depression and took in boarders to make ends meet. She lived to ninety, was an early environmentalist, helped to bring the right to vote for women, was active in providing better homes for black families and sought to improve the lot of the Indians. Another strong woman.


Rumour has it there is a ghost in the bedroom where her brother Albert died. Apparently he was a dandy, a heavy drinker and a womanizer and has shown himself to a few young women over the years. He did not appear while I was there. I decided not to take it personally.

It was so great to be able to step back in time and experience life in this part of North America before high rises, traffic jams, shopping malls and crazy spring break students. I applaud the city of Fort Lauderdale for preserving these sights.

4 Responses to "Historic Houses of Fort Lauderdale II"

I enjoyed this, as I love hearing the history of a place anchored in the everyday lives of regular people. Thank you for this.

Thanks for stopping by. I am so glad you enjoyed this post. I was particularly impressed by the intelligent, strong women that belonged to that era. But then, we have both written about strong, quick thinking young women in our books.

Another great find. After our trips to the historic districts of Charleston, SC, and Savannah, GA, my curiosity has been piqued to learn of these other wonderful places and the story they have to tell of those who lived among them. Thanks for sharing these with us.

I am glad I took the effort to search these places out. It made my trip worth while! I would love to visit Charleston and Savannah someday for the history.

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