- Broward County
- Year Founded: 1961
- Founded by: Robert Parsell (R.P.) Davie
- Previously known as: Zona
The Town of Davie is home to over 92,000 residents who live across a lush 35.6 square miles within central Broward, just southwest of Fort Lauderdale. The Town’s rural atmosphere, western theme district and sprawling educational complex foster an environment that separates Davie from all other municipalities in Broward County. The Town prides itself on its open spaces, numerous parks, equestrian community and over 165 miles of trail system linkage.
The first permanent settlers of the Town of Davie arrived in 1909 from the Panama Canal Zone and later from states such as Illinois, Michigan, and Kentucky. They were drawn to the area because of the efforts by the State of Florida to drain the swamp land; the land was cheap with an ideal climate, and the richness of the soil. Many of these settlers arrived by way of train and boat. Travel was very slow because of the lack of roads from established towns and villages. The northern settlers traveled via railroad to Jacksonville, by the Florida East Coast Railroad to Fort Lauderdale. Once in Fort Lauderdale, the travelers would have to travel by boat to reach the Davie area, known in that time as “Zona.” The first settlers elected to name this area “Zona” because of the influence of the settlers from the Panamanian Canal Zone. By 1914, approximately 250 people called Davie home.
Originally, the Davie Farm at Zona, Florida consisted of 2,000 acres purchased from the State by Everglades Sugar and Land, Co., and subdivided into smaller acreages. The land had not been thoroughly drained resulting in the early settlers having to contend with persistent flooding and local wildlife. The first homes were constructed of lumber and tar paper and could not withstand the rain and thunderstorms. The hurricanes and storms of September 1926 were pivotal in the development of Davie as most of the homes were lost that year. By the end of 1926, most homes were constructed of concrete block to better withstand inclement weather.
The Town of Davie’s proud culture stems from of its most recognizable landmarks, the Old Davie School and the Rodeo Arena. Old Davie School is the oldest existing school in Broward County. The school was opened in 1918 with 90 students. The school is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Davie Rodeo Arena was constructed by 17 residents in 1946.
In 1925, Zona was renamed in R.P. Davie’s honor as the Town of Davie, having purchase a significant amount land in the area. Davie was originally incorporated in 1925, but later dissolved during the following legislative session to avoid taxation resulting from the incorporation. The Town was again incorporated in 1961 with less than 2,000 residents. By the mid 1970s, the Town of Davie had over 12,000 residents. By the 1990s, the Town population exploded to over 47,217 residents. Today, Davie boasts a population of over 92,000 residents.
Story of City’s Founding
The Town’s first settlers arrived from the Panama Canal Zone in 1909 along with other families from states, such as Illinois, Michigan, and Kentucky. As a result of these early settlers, the area now known as Davie was affectionately named “Zona”. It would not be until 1925, when Zona was officially incorporated as Davie in honor of Robert Parsell (R.P.) Davie. The Florida Governor from 1905-1909, Napoleon Bonaparte Broward persuaded the Florida Legislature to drain a large portion of the Everglades for the purposes of farming and agriculture. This was primarily financed by the selling of large blocks of land for $2 per acre. As a result of appealing advertising, settlers began to arrive in 1909. The main draws to this area were the cheap land, climate, and rich soil. As the State was undertaking the task of draining the Everglades, R.P. Davie, a millionaire, stepped in to assist Gov. Broward with this project. Mr. Davie purchased over 27,000 acres of land in 1906 and was the catalyst for bringing water and drainage services to the Davie area. In 1918, the Broward School Board donated five (5) acres of land to the Davie to build its first school. This school was named Davie Elementary School, in honor of R.P. Davie. The school opened with 90 students in four (4) classrooms on the first floor of the building. The second floor of the school building was as a Town Hall meeting space for the residents. This is where the decision was made to officially incorporate the Town of Davie in 1925. Frank Stirling was elected as the Town’s first Mayor. Unfortunately, the Town was dissolved in the following year because the residents became disenchanted by taxes imposed by the State. The Town officially re-incorporated and chartered in 1961. Since its chartering, the Town has experienced significant growth and expansion. The Town’s population went from a population of less than 2,000 people to over 92,000 residents today. Old Davie School and Rodeo Arena In Zona (what would later become Davie) school was held in a packing house along the canal until 1910. After that a wooden, two-room school house was constructed on a one-acre piece of property. By 1916, the Davie settlement had outgrown the small wooden structure, and the need for a larger school was quickly addressed. Davie Elementary, designed in 1917 by August Geiger, one of South Florida’s most prominent early architects, opened its doors in 1918 to roughly 90 students. This historic structure was the first permanent school in the Everglades and is now Broward County’s oldest existing school building. The building was in continuous use as a school until 1980. From the day it opened, Davie Elementary served as the area’s source of education as well as a center for community gatherings. In 1988, Davie Elementary achieved listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The Town restored the school with funding provided by the State Bureau of Historic Preservation. The first rodeo was held in 1940 with donated horses and livestock; however the original rodeo arena was not constructed until 1946 by seventeen local residents. The materials were donated by the local General Store because of the lack of financial resources. Today the arena continues to be utilized for professional rodeos and serves as an entertainment venue. The Town of Davie is responsible for the upkeep of the arena.
Little Known Facts
- The Town’s community packing house served as a school, church, and community meeting hall
- Early settlers organized the Zona Glades Company in 1912
- Davie was settled in 1909 and was called “Zona” until 1925
- Old Davie School was originally known as Davie Elementary School, which opened in 1918 with 90 students
- Before the early settlers arrived, the Davie area was home to Calusa, Tequesta, and Seminole Indian tribes
Name: Pine Island Ridge
Location: 3900 S.W. 100th Ave., Davie, FL 33328
Historical Significance: Highest natural elevation in Broward County
Name: Davie Women’s Club
Location: 6551 Orange Drive, Davie, FL 33314
Historical Significance: Constructed in 1946 along with Rodeo Arena
Name: Old Davie School
Location: 6650 Griffin Road, Davie, FL 33314
Historical Significance: Oldest school in Broward County
Name: Bergeron Rodeo Grounds
Location: 1471 Davie Road, Davie, FL 33314
Historical Significance: Constructed in 1946 by 17 residents