History Happened Here

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Oakland Park

Broward County

Year Founded: 1925Previously known as: Floranada

History

Oakland Park was first settled in the late 1800′s drawn by the rich farming opportunities. Despite a brief intermission as the planned exclusive community of Floranada, which was foiled by the devastating hurricane of 1926, the city became a major farming center shipping out tomatoes, peppers, green beans and mangos.

The city has steadily grown from a small farming community, to a notable industrial area, survived efforts at annexation, a decline in the economy and is coming back as an exciting city with renewed enthusism and energy.

Story of City's Founding

It all began in 1892 when William C. Collier, settled in what is now Oakland Park on a site on the north fork of the Middle River, purchasing the property to establish a citrus grove. In 1901, the Whidby family followed. Settlers, many from North Florida, gradually moved into the area, to farm and raise livestock. In 1922, 22-year old Dewey Hawkins moved down from Live Oak, Florida. He was a natural leader and pulled the community together, later serving as Mayor of Oakland Park. The following year the Southeast Packing Company opened their slaughterhouse on the north fork of the Middle River with a bar-b-cue that drew people from as far as Fort Pierce and Miami. As it grew, the packing company’s generators provided electricity and their pumps furnished water for neighboring residents. Under the guidance of Mayor Hawkins, the city bought the packing plant to become the first utility provider for area residents. At the same time, the Barkdull Investment Company purchased 810 acres and laid out a development as a settlement for movie actors and actresses, with the help of a Miami movie company. They named their subdivision Oakland Park after the oak trees that lined the north bank of the Middle River. As the Florida land boom continued, the larger cities of Fort Lauderdale and Pompano Beach began to reach out to annex the rich settlement. The residents of Oakland Park met on October 29, 1925, and voted to incorporate, but before they could take action they received the unexpected news that a new city called Floranada had been incorporated by the American - British Improvement Company, under the leadership of the Countess of Lauderdale, and had taken Oakland Park into its boundaries! After the annexation, the group purchased an additional six square miles east of the existing city boundaries from Arthur Galt. The plan was to build an exclusive community to cater to the whims of people of means. The buyers were the likes of the former King of Greece, and families with names like Dodge, Drexel and Cromwell. The Floranada Club was laid out with an exclusive inn, two lagoons, two golf courses, marinas, and their own private railroad extension and advertised in the New York Times as the "Biarritz of the Americas." South Florida was bursting with development, but the September 1926 hurricane, which devastated the area, burst the prosperity balloon. By late spring of 1929, it had become apparent that the number of residents, who had returned to their homes elsewhere and the businesses which had closed, drastically depleted the population. The few who were left tightened their belts and decided to make some major changes. A referendum abolished the Town of Floranada and established the City of Oakland Park. The boundaries were reestablished to approximately the west side of U.S. 1 west to N.E. 3rd Avenue and the north fork of Middle River north to what is now Prospect Road. Regretfully, the beachfront was lost to Fort Lauderdale, but equally notable, in the demise of Floranada, all bills were paid - there were no debts left. The little City of Oakland Park was mostly the home of area farmers. The small Oakland Park Methodist Church (the only church in town at that time) was the hub of social activities. The Oakland Park Elementary School (which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places) had been built in 1925, and remains open. Originally, grades 1 through 6 were taught. Later it was grades 1 through 4, with 1st and 2nd grades in one room with one teacher and grades 3 and 4 in another room with the principal as teacher. Children rode school buses into Ft. Lauderdale for all the higher grades. Gradually the City began to grow. New homes were built and the population increased. As the years passed, the size of the town grew, both in residents and in area. With the end of WWII, soldiers who had trained in Florida returned to the sun and promise of the area. Although it will never be as large as Floranada was, today Oakland Park is a little over eight square miles and approximately 43,000 residents call Oakland Park home. It has a notable recreation program, its own excellent library, expansive parks, and much, much more. About the author: Darleen Mitchell, was the first resident born in Oakland Park after its incorporation in 1929. Mrs. Mitchell served as City Clerk for more than 30 years and is a founding member of the Oakland Park Historical Society.

Historical Sites

Name: Oakland Park Elementary School
Location: 936 N.E. 33rd Street, Oakland Park
Historical Significance: oldest continuously operating school in Broward County, listed in the National Register of Historic Places 1988

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