Today, the Galt Ocean Mile is lined with high-rise condominiums, a remarkable concentration of luxury dwellings valued at hundreds of millions of dollars. But more than a half century ago, it was far from a prime property. The politicians that ran the city in those days, during the days of racial discrimination, considered it so expendable that it was the only beach area that Fort Lauderdale’s black population was allowed to use.
The story and the name of Galt Ocean Mile began in 1913, when Arthur Galt, a Chicago lawyer, bought the property. It took him 40 years to sell it. Galt was the son of the law partner of Hugh Taylor Birch, who at one time owned most of what is today’s Fort Lauderdale Beach.
Incredibly, the Galt Ocean Mile was only part of the land that Galt purchased, most of the 8,000 acres that was included lay west of the Intracoastal Waterway. It was during the 1920’s, the glorious days of Florida’s land boom, that the “Countess of Lauderdale”, Gwendolyn Maitland, decided to create a resort to rival Palm Beach in Fort Lauderdale.
The slim, refined-looking Scot formed the “British Improvement Association” which promptly began acquiring property, principally a successful subdivision called Oakland Park and 8,000 acres from Galt. The down payment for Galt property was one million dollars, a fraction of the total the Countess laid out.
She had assembled an impressive group of partners: two Lords, a Viscount, an ex-King of Greece and her fellow aristocratic Palm Beachers, including society’s ruling Grande dame, Mrs. E.T Stotesbury.
The new resort town, incorporated on November 25, 1925, was called Floranada, a combination “Florida” and “Canada.“ The cornerstone was laid for Florinada Inn, a golf course was built and a narrow-gauge railroad was ordered.
Then came the bust, the inglorious end to Florida’s great land boom. The company had sold only a few lots and the money on these was refunded and the land reverted to Galt.
At this point, no one was interested in buying, but when, in 1927, the last remaining oceanfront public beaches in the city of Fort Lauderdale were declared off limits to blacks, by default they used the Ocean Mile, which became known as the “black beach”. Galt was choosy about selling his land. Prospective buyers had to promise building programs that met his standards. He once turned down a good offer when he found the land would be used for a trailer park.
After World War 11, James S. Hunt and Stephen Calder formed a partnership and persuaded Galt to sell them a parcel of land between Middle River and the Intracoastal. They called it Coral Ridge and dubbed their company Coral Ridge Properties. This brings us up to the beginning of the story as published in the October edition. So – “Now you know the rest of the story”