“This sketch is of the charming villa planned for the King of Greece,” read the pamphlet.
The king’s villa would be close to that of the Countess of Lauderdale, a member of the British upper class whose late husband descended from the same line of Scottish aristocrats as our own Major William Lauderdale. Nearby would be the villas of the Viscount Molesworth and other British notables.
Where would such a place be? Was His Majesty planning a little getaway in Monaco? In Hong Kong?
Think 1925. Think undeveloped land. Think Oakland Park.
The headlines of the Miami Herald from December 18 of that year read:
“DREAM CITY IN OFFING
Visions of Countess of
Lauderdale To Come True With
Building of Floranada.”
The prose in the article was breathless: “As this is being written untold genius of engineering, architecture and construction and the notables of society in two continents are concentrating … on a fulfillment of the countess’s dream.”
The countess’s dream “to build the most beautiful city in the world” took shape after spending a season in Palm Beach in 1908. But she chose a wide-open area closer to the city with which she shared a name. She selected land than ran inland from near where the Galt Ocean Mile is today; at the time it was not part of Fort Lauderdale proper.
The 1925 Herald article reported, “Masterminds of finance, vast acreages north of Fort Lauderdale were acquired, the best of every profession necessary in building a great city of wealth, beauty and charm were called in….”
So began the American-British Improvement Corporation and its plan for Floranada.
Many lots were sold here and abroad, going for $4,500 up to $8,000. Buyers, including many from New York and Philadelphia society as well as those British aristocrats, were lured by descriptions of 18-hole golf courses, a yacht club and Roman baths.
The yet-to-be-built town was incorporated as Floranada in 1926. The original residents of the area surely couldn’t have anticipated what was about to hit them. After all, when the area’s first settler, a bean farmer named Thomas Whidby, came in 1901, there was a population of four. They were his wife, a man living in a driftwood house and a black man known only as Poole. By the time a landowner named Arthur T. Galt began coming in and buying up land 20 years later, the area was still pretty much farmland, with the addition of a Methodist church and an elementary school.
And that’s how it would remain, the blueprints of geniuses and masters in all fields notwithstanding. In 1926, one of the worst storms ever hit and wiped out much of the property and businesses in and around Fort Lauderdale. The real estate boom went bust. And then came the Depression.
Floranada – the name is meant to combine Florida and Canada – was over. The land the American-British Improvement Corporation had bought from Galt now reverted back to him.
Developers had completed one administration building, much of an 18-hole golf course and parts of a clubhouse and inn. That one building had an extended life, some of it as a tavern, but for much of the next three decades, it sat empty. Even with its imported Italian marble floors and huge mahogany doors.
A Fort Lauderdale News article described that remnant of the royal utopia as it stood circa 1960: “Progress is edging closer to the pea-green horror labeled ‘Club Tropicana’ that stands along North Federal Highway just south of Holy Cross Hospital.” The building, still bearing the name of its tavern days, was in for further derision by the writer. She reported that the “monstrous boarded-up pseudo-Mediterranean type of hunk of masonry” was to be refurbished as apartments and shops.
Whatever followed was short-lived. The building was demolished in 1963.
But lest we all be too harsh on these viscounts, dreamers and Countess Lauderdale, the people behind the American-British Improvement Corp. showed something rarely seen in those land boom sale times. The developers, who of course suffered a costly loss, sent lawyers to track down and refund money to every single person who had purchased a villa or lot.
In time, most of the Floranada area would reincorporate as the City of Oakland Park, while Galt’s oceanfront land would become part of Fort Lauderdale – the borders we know today. The only public institution that today bears the name “Floranada” is the elementary school – in Oakland Park.