Fort Lauderdale skyline
Fort Lauderdale skyline
Along the New River in Fort Lauderdale

When the Spanish first arrived, the Fort Lauderdale area was occupied by the Tequesta Indians. At the time they were constantly fighting with their Calusa Indian neighbors but the arrival of the Spaniards signalled the coming end of both tribes. Diseases brought by the Spanish wiped out both tribes within 200 years, leaving most of south Florida open for colonization by the Seminoles. The last few Tequesta were evacuated to Cuba in 1763 when the Spanish turned Florida over to the British at the end of the Seven Years War (over here it was known as the French and Indian War).

Fort Lauderdale is named after a series of forts that were built in the area during the Second Seminole War. Commander when the first fort was built at a fork in the New River: Major William Lauderdale. The second fort was built at Tarpon Bend on the New River and the third was built near what is today Bahia Mar Marina. The forts were all abandoned with the end of the fighting in 1842 and the Fort Lauderdale area saw no further development until the 1890's.

Frank Stranahan arrived in 1893 to operate a ferry across the New River and the Florida East Coast Railway arrived in 1896, bringing settlers with it. The city was incorporated in 1911 and became the county seat of Broward county in 1915.

Development really took off during the 1920's Florida land boom, then dropped off during the Great Depression. During World War II the area became a major US Navy installation. That brought in a number of people unfamiliar with Florida and many returned during the 1950's. Fort Lauderdale's population in 1960 was about 230% of the 1950 population. Growth continues today but not quite on the same scale. By 1970 the land base of the city was essentially built out and growth moved to the suburbs.

Today's Fort Lauderdale is a major tourist destination, especially during spring break. The city has grown a bit through annexing adjacent unincorporated areas and is now the center of a 1.5 million person metro area.