Fort Lauderdale is a city in the U.S. state of Florida, on the Atlantic coast. It is the county seat of Broward County. As of the 2010 census, the city had a population of 165,521. It is a principal city of the South Florida metropolitan area, which was home to 5,564,635 people at the 2010 census.
The city is a popular tourist destination, with 10.35 million visitors in 2006. Fort Lauderdale is sometimes known as the "Venice of America" because of its expansive and intricate canal system. The city is a major yachting center, with 42,000 resident yachts and 100 marinas and boatyards in 2006. The city sits north of Miami. Fort Lauderdale and the surrounding area hosted over 4,000 restaurants and 120 nightclubs in 2006.
Fort Lauderdale is named after a series of forts built by the United States during the Second Seminole War. The forts took their name from Major William Lauderdale, who was the commander of the detachment of soldiers who built the first fort. However, development of the city did not begin until 50 years after the forts were abandoned at the end of the conflict. Three forts named "Fort Lauderdale" were constructed; the first was at the fork of the New River, the second at Tarpon Bend on the New River between the Colee Hammock and Rio Vista neighborhoods, and the third near the site of the Bahia Mar Marina.
The area in which the city of Fort Lauderdale would later be founded was inhabited for more than a thousand years by the Tequesta Indians. Contact with Spanish explorers in the 16th century proved disastrous for the Tequesta, as the Europeans unwittingly brought with them diseases, such as smallpox, to which the native populations possessed no resistance. For the Tequesta, disease, coupled with continuing conflict with their Calusa neighbors, contributed greatly to their decline over the next two centuries. By 1763, there were only a few Tequesta left in Florida, and most of them were evacuated to Cuba when the Spanish ceded Florida to the British in 1763, under the terms of the Treaty of Paris (1763), which ended the Seven Years' War. Although control of the area changed between Spain, United Kingdom, the United States, and the Confederate States of America, it remained largely undeveloped until the 20th century.
The Fort Lauderdale area was known as the "New River Settlement" before the 20th century. In the 1830s there were approximately 70 settlers living along the New River. William Cooley, the local Justice of the Peace, was a farmer and wrecker, who traded with the Seminole Indians. On January 6, 1836, while Cooley was leading an attempt to salvage a wrecked ship, a band of Seminoles attacked his farm, killing his wife and children, and the children's tutor. The other farms in the settlement were not attacked, but all the white residents in the area abandoned the settlement, fleeing first to the Cape Florida Lighthouse on Key Biscayne, and then to Key West.
The first United States stockade named Fort Lauderdale was built in 1838, and subsequently was a site of fighting during the Second Seminole War. The fort was abandoned in 1842, after the end of the war, and the area remained virtually unpopulated until the 1890s. It was not until Frank Stranahan arrived in the area in 1893 to operate a ferry across the New River, and the Florida East Coast Railroad's completion of a route through the area in 1896, that any organized development began. The city was incorporated in 1911, and in 1915 was designated the county seat of newly formed Broward County.
Fort Lauderdale's first major development began in the 1920s, during the Florida land boom of the 1920s. The 1926 Miami Hurricane and the Great Depression of the 1930s caused a great deal of economic dislocation. When World War II began, Fort Lauderdale became a major US base, with a Naval Air Station to train pilots, radar operators, and fire control operators. A Coast Guard base at Port Everglades was also established.
After the war ended, service members returned to the area, spurring an enormous population explosion which dwarfed the 1920s boom. The 1960 Census counted 83,648 people in the city, about 230% of the 1950 figure. A 1967 report estimated that the city was approximately 85% developed, and the 1970 population figure was 139,590. After 1970, as Fort Lauderdale became essentially built out, growth in the area shifted to suburbs to the west. As cities such as Coral Springs, Miramar, and Pembroke Pines experienced explosive growth, Fort Lauderdale's population stagnated, and the city actually shrank by almost 4,000 people between 1980, when the city had 153,279 people, and 1990, when the population was 149,377. A slight rebound brought the population back up to 152,397 at the 2000 census. Since 2000, Fort Lauderdale has gained slightly over 18,000 residents through annexation of seven neighborhoods in unincorporated Broward County. Today, Fort Lauderdale is a major yachting center, one of the nation's largest tourist destinations, and the center of a metropolitan division with 1.8 million people.