Long before college students headed to Florida for spring break, the area around what is today Fort Lauderdale was settled by the Tequesta Indian tribe. Within three centuries of the arrival of Spanish explorers the tribes had essentially vanished from the region.

     Later during the Seminole Wars, what was actually the second fortification in the area was built on the banks of the New River in 1838. It was named after Major William Lauderdale, who led a group of Tennessee volunteers south along the east coast of Florida to capture Seminole lands. Following the war this fort was abandoned and left to rot in the midst of the mangrove swamps, and for a time runaway slaves and army deserters used it for a hideout.

     Finally in the second half of the 19th century Charles Green Rhodes began the transformation of the swamplands into prime real estate. He devised a plan that called dredging of parallel canals and used fill to create long peninsulas in between them. It was the same theory that was used to create Venice Italy, and which earned Fort Lauderdale the nickname, “Venice of America.”

  1.      The first railroad arrived  in 1911 and the same year the city was incorporated. A winter attraction called the Collegiate Aquatic Forum attracted the first college students beginning in 1935, and eventually word spread about the sun and beaches. In the 1960s the Connie Francis’ song “The Strip” and the beach-party movie, “Where the Boys Are,” helped make Fort Lauderdale a Mecca for spring break.