The Stranahan House

March 16th, 2021

On this edition of Learning from Miami we journey along the New River in Fort Lauderdale to the home of Frank and Ivy Stranahan, the founders of Fort Lauderdale.

In January 1893, 27-year-old Frank Stranahan left his native Ohio and moved to what would be the future city of Fort Lauderdale along the New River. Stranahan had been hired to manage his cousin’s camp and ferry crossing for the Lantana to Lemon City stage line.

In 1894, Mary Brickell, co-founder of Miami and landowner of parcels along the New River, asked Frank to relocate his original campsite 300 yards upriver.  He agreed, and in return she gave Frank 10.7 acres of land in the surrounding area. Frank expanded the family business and established the Stranahan & Company Trading Post. He befriended the Seminole Indians who lived along the river and developed a very prosperous Indian trading business. Frank’s newly acquired plot of land became the central location of the tiny “New River Settlement” in Fort Lauderdale. Stranahan established a post office there and became postmaster.

By 1899, the area had grown large enough to meet the requirements for a teacher from the county board of education. Eighteen-year-old Ivy Julia Cromartie was hired to teach the local children and she moved to the New River Settlement. Community members built a one-room schoolhouse for Ivy and her nine students in the New River Settlement.

Frank and Ivy met when she lived and taught at the settlement. They married on August 16, 1900, at her family home. Soon after their marriage, Ivy resigned from teaching. She still had a passion for education and began offering informal lessons to Seminole children at the trading post that respected the tribe’s traditions.

In 1901, Frank built the two-story Stranahan House out of Dade County Pine, in the vernacular architecture style. The lower floor served as a trading post and the upper floor as a community hall. By 1906, Frank’s enterprise had grown to include a general store and a bank. He built a new building close to the Flagler railroad. The old trading post was later converted into a residence for the Stranahans. The home went through a second major renovation between 1913 and 1915, when an interior staircase, electric wiring, and plumbing were installed. As Frank’s businesses grew, so did the settlement.

Fort Lauderdale was incorporated in 1911. At this time, Frank owned a great deal of property around the Fort Lauderdale area. He and Ivy took on social and civic leadership roles in the developing city and donated property for many public projects.

In 1926, Florida’s land boom collapsed, and Frank suffered extreme financial losses. That same year, the “Great Miami” hurricane ravaged South Florida, adding more costly damage to Stranahan’s investment properties. Frank also suffered feelings of guilt for financially ruining his friends who had invested in his projects. Frank’s depression spiraled out of control. On May 22, 1929, he committed suicide by drowning himself in the New River in front of his home.

Following Frank’s death, Ivy struggled to make a living. Determined to keep her home, she decided to rent out its spare rooms. Ivy later leased the first floor of her home as a restaurant space.

Ivy would eventually return to her roots as a civic activist. During the Great Depression, she witnessed her neighbors’ losing their homes to foreclosures. Ivy and her allies championed a movement that resulted in Florida’s Homestead Exemption law. In the mid-1930s, Ivy was instrumental in establishing a hospital for the Black community. She campaigned for family planning and the Campfire Girls, a multicultural organization for girls. She created housing programs for the elderly and the Garden Club. Ivy was also an influential supporter of the Seminole tribes by advocating for land, education, healthcare and proper treatment of indigenous people. She lived in the Stranahan home until her passing on August 30, 1971.

Ivy was a devout protestant Christian. After her death, the home was donated to the Seventh Day Adventist Church. In 1979, after the restaurant’s lease expired, the Fort Lauderdale Historical Society purchased the the home. They formed a partnership with the Fort Lauderdale Board of Realtors in order to restore the home to its original layout. In 1981, the Stranahan House incorporated, became a separate non-profit organization, and then reopened to the public as a museum in 1984. Today, the Historic Stranahan House Museum welcomes approximately 10,000 visitors each year.

-Ursa Gil

Resources

https://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/fl-xpm-1994-04-24-9404210516-story.html

Frank & Ivy Stranahan – Founders of Fort Lauderdale

Audubon House and Tropical Gardens.

February 17th, 2021

[caption id="attachment_4146" align="aligncenter" width="300"] 1948 photograph of the Audubon House. Photo Courtesy: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory.[/caption] On this edition of Learning from Miami we travel to Key West to explore the history of the Audubon House and Tropical Gardens. John James Audubon, the famous American artist and ornithologist, set out to create the most detailed pictorial record of all the bird species in North America Read More...

Española Way

January 22nd, 2021

[caption id="attachment_4130" align="aligncenter" width="300"] View looking west along Española Way in Miami Beach. Photo Courtesy: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory.[/caption] There is more to South Beach than art deco. One of SoBe’s best kept architectural secrets is a Mediterranean Revival thoroughfare nestled between Washington and Pennsylvania Avenue Read More...

Ca’ d’Zan

October 21st, 2020

1965, Aerial view looking east over the Ringling Art Museum in Sarasota, Florida. Photo Courtesy: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. On this edition of Learning from Miami, we visit Sarasota, Florida and explore Ca’ d’Zan, the palatial former home of American circus mogul and art collector John Ringling Read More...

Soaring with Dinner Key Seaplanes

August 17th, 2020

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16TdPrAXFDE&feature=youtu.be The sky’s the limit in this edition of Learning from Miami, as we embark on an aviation adventure to Dinner Key. Dinner Key is a human-made parcel of land located in Coconut Grove created in 1917 by the United States Navy Read More...

Life’s a Beach at Haulover Park

July 15th, 2020

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WpLXRusV8PU&feature=youtu.be Summer is here, so let’s hit the beach. Learning from Miami invites you to kick off your shoes and enjoy a historical beach day at Haulover Park. Baker’s Haulover Cut was named after a local sponge fisherman in the late 1800’s named Philip Edward Baker Read More...

Matheson Hammock, Dade County’s First Public Park

July 1st, 2020

Parks provide relaxation and enjoyment of nature. They are a place for organized sports, play, for civic ceremonies and cultural events, and for education. On this edition of Learning from Miami, we invite you outdoors to explore the origins of Dade County’s first public park. American industrialist William J Read More...

Virginia Key, Miami’s First Black Beach.

June 15th, 2020

The civil rights movement in Miami echoes with both conflict and victory. In Miami, social clashes between races triggered civil unrest and racial tension. Learning from Miami invites you to uncover the history of Virginia Key, the first black beach in Miami. During the real estate boom in the 1920s, many people moved to the city of Miami Read More...

Cruising to the Drive-In

June 2nd, 2020

https://youtu.be/L3KfMGKNaN0   A nostalgic way to watch movies has been making a comeback in recent months. Drive-in movie theaters are popping up across the nation. Learning from Miami invites you to cruise down memory lane while we take a trip through the history of the drive-in movie. Auto-parts sales manager and cinephile Richard Hollingshead created the drive-in theater in the early 1930s by using his own driveway in Camden, New Jersey, to test out his new cinematic concept Read More...

The Architecture of Healthcare: Variety Children’s Hospital

May 15th, 2020

On this edition of Learning from Miami, we continue our tour of South Florida hospitals and visit the Variety Children's Hospital. On October 10, 1927, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 11 men involved in the entertainment industry created a social group they named the “Variety Club.” On Christmas Eve in 1928, an abandoned baby girl was found in the Sheridan Square Theater where the Variety Club was meeting Read More...