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The Stranahan House

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This is the story of a house. It is the story of two people in love. It is also the story of how one family affected its community and how that community grew into a city.

The Stranahan House began as a modest trading post in 1893, when Frank Stranahan settled along the New River where he built a prosperous trade with the local Seminoles. Stranahan also operated a much needed ferry that carried wagons and large loads across the river. By 1900, Fort Lauderdale had grown from a few dozen people to a small rural town of 52.

As the new residents settled in, they moved to establish a school. The head of the school board found his first teacher in a nearby Lemon City. In 1899, Ivy Julia Cromartie began teaching in Fort Lauderdale’s one room school house. Smitten by the 18 year old beauty, Frank Stranahan began courting her. On August 16, 1900, Frank and Ivy married. After their honeymoon, they lived in a small cottage near the riverfront and trading post. But Frank moved quickly to build a new, larger trading post made of sturdy Dade County Pine. He gave it broad porches around its two floors so that the Seminoles could have a place to sleep when they came to trade.

The house and the Stranahans enjoyed busy and productive lives with their house as the center of activity. As Fort Lauderdale’s “First Lady”, Ivy Stranahan played a major role in the town’s civic and social life. As with Frank, she embraced the people and the town with undeniable passion. From the beginning, Ivy welcomed the Seminoles to the trading post, recalling later “life might have been a little lonely had it not been for the Indians.” As a teacher, she reached out to them and began instructing them in small groups. Later, Ivy would write a history of the Seminole Indians and form “Friends of the Seminoles”, serving as its spokesperson for 50 years.

The Stranahans enjoyed a rich life and faced many challenges together. But their married ended with tragedy, when Frank committed suicide following the collapse of his bank in 1929.

The house, like its owners, was unpretentious. The 2000 square foot house was a wood framed vernacular structure. Yet it possessed a stately appearance. By 1915, the house was updated to include indoor plumbing and electricity. With other additions, the house lost its “trading post” look and became a residence. Today, the house sits amid a vibrant city in the shadows of high-rise buildings. Yet as one approaches the house from the New River, the significance of the Stranahan House cannot be lost.

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