Historic Sailboat Bend

By Beth Daly,Realtor®

The tiny, historic Village of Sailboat Bend was Fort Lauderdale's first "working class" neighborhood. This, one of Fort Lauderdale's most historically significant locations was settled along a sharp curve on the North Bank of the New River, north to SW 2 Street, and from SW 7 Avenue west to SW 11 Avenue.

The majority of the homes in Sailboat Bend were built in the 1920's. Most of the homes were crafted of Dade County Pine, one of the hardiest woods at that time, and it still prevails today. The Dade County pine is impervious to termites. There are 75 Historic Buildings in this delightful neighborhood. Most of the homes in this neighborhood are not on the River. The larger estate properties are on the banks of the New River.

History dates back as far as 1450 BC in this little area where there was evidence of the Tequesta Indian Tribe living along the banks of the New River. The Seminole Indians settled into the area in 1793. In 1835 there were approximately 60 homesteaders.

In early 1838 Major Lauderdale and his Officers sought a high and secure sight for their fort. Atop of five Tequesta Indian mounds located on the north bank of the New River at the fork, the 30 foot, 2-story blockhouse was constructed near the intersection of what is now SW 9 Avenue (Lauderdale Trail) and SW 4 Court. As it was the Army's practice at the time to name the fort after the commanding officer, this stockade became known as Fort Lauderdale. Thus the name of our city was established.

In 1899 William H. Marshall established a homestead along the New River, purchased land and became one of the largest produce farmers in the area. William H. Marshall was elected the first Mayor of Fort Lauderdale. In 1912 he was re-elected and went on to serve 2 terms as Broward County's first State Representative. He was the first in south Florida to sell his produce by mail order. He was also one of the early proponents of a deep water port, to allow more trade to move in and out of the area by sea.

In the 1950's, 1960's and 1970's Sailboat Bend sadly declined to a point where government agencies wrote the area off as "a lost cause". With one of the highest crime rates in the city, this once thriving "working class" neighborhood fell into the hands of drug dealers and prostitutes, and became the area where illicit activity become "the norm".

In the late 1970's and early 1980's a group of concerned residents and property owners decided to get together and fight back. The Sailboat Bend Civic Association was formed in 1980 with the primary goal of cleaning up the neighborhood and eliminating the bad element, crime and other illegal activity. After successfully regaining control of the neighborhood, some fix-up and landscaping for "curb appeal" in the late 1980's The Sailboat Bend Civic Association launched a public relations campaign to "get the word out" about this wonderful, historic enclave of beautiful homes a midst century old native canopy.

It was in 1988 that they first introduced the House and Garden Tour. The premise was to attract and educate our residents about the revitalization and beauty of the area. The House and Garden Tour is still held today, mainly to showcase the charm and historic heritage of Sailboat Bend. The Broward County Historical Commission is very active in the Sailboat Bend area.

In 1992 The Civic Association was able to obtain historic designation for Sailboat Bend. This is now the only residential historic community in Fort Lauderdale.

Two of my favorite attractions are the Historic "Swingbridge" (also known as the Snow-Reed Bridge - this name refers to the 2 mayors who presided over the bridge's construction; R.G. Snow and Will Reed in 1925 & 1925 or SW 11th Ave. Bridge) at SW 11 Avenue, and the Historic Frances Abreu designed Fire House, (Fort Lauderdale's Fire Station 3) which we are proud to announce is now home to Fort Lauderdales own Fire and Safety Museum on Palm Avenue and West Las Olas Boulevard (circa 1927). 

The "Swingbridge" is located at the southwest corner of the Sailboat Bend neighborhood and it spans the north fork of the New River, just before it joins the south fork joining two of Fort Lauderdale's venerable neighborhoods; Sailboat Bend and Riverside Park.  This 169 foot bridge was constructed beginning in 1922 through 1925 while there were still deer grazing and Seminole Indians hunting on the banks of the two forks of the New River. This bridge is one of the few of it's kind left in Florida. It opens by swinging from side to side as a large, horizontal gear rotates. It is really something to watch from either the water or the land.  Swing bridges used to be the way bridges were "back in the day"... One difference is that today there is a Bridgemaster.  For much of it's prior history, if you wanted the bridge to swing, you'd have to get out and crank it open yourself! 


The Historic Fire Station (now home to our own Fort Lauderdale Fire and Safety Museum) is a magnificent display of the period architecture of the late 1920's. Designed in 1927 by Frances Abreu, Fort Lauderdale's pre-eminent architect of the time, the building had not been used over the years and had fallen into disrepair. Recently this fabulous structure has been "saved" by the motivation, care and concern of some of our local residents and members of the Sailboat Bend Civic Association. The building has been renovated, the historic tile roof has been restored, the ugly chain-link fence that surrounded the property has been removed and replaced with colorful, lush landscaping, and the charm of the property has been polished and refreshed.


The Sailboat Bend community is elated to announce the success of this historic landmark as our own local Fort Lauderdale Fire and Safety Museum, which is  open for tours. (Click the hyperlink above to check for the current operating hours and other information). Thanks to the timeless dedication, hard work and care of countless volunteers, trades people and the generous donors, the museum first opened in the 1st Quarter of 2010. Most of the the reconstruction and restoration has been funded by generous donors who have given of both their time and their money. The success of the continued restoration and day to day operations remains in the hands of those and other donors who appreciate and support this vital piece of our local history. The 1920's kitchen has been totally restored and equipped, as has the 1920's "Watch Desk" and a fire alarm box system has been installed which is identical to that of those used during the period from the 1920's through the 1950's. Visitors can actually "pull the fire alarm box" and hear and see how "the action" may have been many years ago.

The mission of the "rebirth" of this critical part of Fort Lauderdale's early days is to restore and display the historic 1920's period architecture, furnishings, artifacts and fire fighting equipment of Fire Station 3, while sharing the stories of service of Fort Lauderdale's firefighters since 1912 and creating and sharing a Children's Fire Safety Learning Center for "children" of all ages to enjoy.

Membership donations are critical to support the "daily workings" of the museum; utility bills, furnishings, insurance and promotional work..

"Please keep those funds coming in, tell your neighbors and let's get this great little treasure on the map!!"

To summarize this area and it's period attributes is only to say that the obvious charm and character of the area, the cottages, and homes of yesteryear, shaded by immense, twisted, and stately century old foliage, the colorful landscaping, and the residents who truly LOVE their community, are only a few of the reasons to adore Sailboat Bend. Fodor's mentions this unique area in one of it's walking tours of Historic Fort Lauderdale. There is a wonderful, convenient Public Boat Ramp in Sailboat Bend at Cooley's Landing. There are 3 ramps, restrooms, good parking and security. This eclectic and timeless neighborhood is within walking distance to the Arts and Entertainment District, Historic Fort Lauderdale, the Riverfront, and the popular Las Olas Boulevard area. The famous Fort Lauderdale beach is minutes away by bike, rollerblade or car.

The Village At Sailboat Bend is a more recent addition to this diverse area.

>One of the more expansive additions to the neighborhood is The Village at Sailboat Bend. This Lennar Homes "Master Planned" community at the north west border of Sailboat Bend was a terrific addition to the neighborhood in the early 2000's.

To enhance and intermingle with the spirit of Sailboat Bend, The Village at Sailboat Bend is comprised of Townhomes, Condominiums, and Single Family Homes; some of which are along the New River. The "flavor" is Key West Style, with Sistern-type Aluminum roofs, and decorative accents. Quality components are one of the strong points of a Lennar home. The Village of Sailboat Bend residences are conveyed with beautiful flooring; tile, carpet or wood laminate. Baths include beautiful stone vanity tops, frameless glass shower enclosures, and a wonderful Roman tub with jets in the Master Bath. The kitchens boast stainless steel GE® Profile Series appliances, custom cabinets, and Kohler fixtures. Each residence also came equipped with a GE Profile® washer and dryer.

In addition to the Village at Sailboat Bend residences, there is another wonderful project called Sailboat Bend Artist Lofts which consists of 37 units of permanently affordable housing where artists and their families will be able to live/work and teach their students. There are wonderful gallery events held at the Artist Lofts celebrating and showcasing the talented residents and their students. Here is a hyperlink to the Sailboat Bend Artist Directory

This project is in conjunction with the restoration of the Historic West Side School which serves as the long awaited new home of the Broward County Historical Commission, also providing community meeting and cultural workshop space. Visitor enjoy access to archives, a research library and of course, a fantastic array of new gallery exhibits from the Sailboat Bend Artists. This has certainly become a popular hub with the art community!

Beth Daly

RE/MAX Preferred

Direct Cellular Phone (954) 663-3180

E Mail: 
Beth Daly
Beth Daly
1103 NE 26 Street Fort Lauderdale FL 33305