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Dania Beach A City Rich In History: Embracing It's Past, Celebrating The Present And Planning For The Future

August 17, 2023

Discovering The Timeless Charms Of Broward County's First City, Dania Beach. With its charming streets, rich heritage, and historical landmarks, Dania Beach stands tall as the oldest city in Broward County, Florida. Steeped in a captivating past that dates back to the 1880’s, this quaint town has overcome various trials and tribulations to become the thriving community it is today.

Pioneering Beginnings
The roots of Dania Beach can be traced back to the late 19th Century when W. C. Valentine, a visionary pioneer and developer, recognized the strategic advantage of the region due to the laying of the Florida East Coast (FEC) Railroad Line through the area. Inspired by this newfound opportunity, Valentine envisioned a settlement he named Modello. Intriguingly, 12 Danish families from Chicago became the first settlers to move to Modello from 1898-1899.

A few years later, in 1902, A.C. Frost, one of the early residents, built the town's first general store and donated the first two schools. Dania's growth was further propelled by the establishment of the Dania Methodist Church in the same year, which became the city's first place of worship.

From Modello To Dania - A City Is Born
In November 1904, Modello was officially incorporated as a town, and its 35 residents, primarily Danes, decided to rename it "Dania" to reflect their heritage. As the years passed, Dania prospered, becoming a thriving community of almost 1,200 people by 1912.

However, the 1920’s brought with it significant setbacks for the city. A series of unfortunate events, including a devastating fire at the Dania Hotel, the failure of the Bank of Dania due to embezzlement, and the destruction caused by a powerful hurricane in 1926, led to challenging times for the residents. The destruction of the town's first church building forced many to seek annexation to the neighboring city of Hollywood. But, despite these hardships, Dania Beach managed to survive, and de-annexation was eventually achieved in 1927.

Preserving The Past
Dania Beach's commitment to preserving its rich history is evident through its dedication to maintaining various historic properties that reflect the city's bygone era. Among the notable properties that have withstood the test of time are:

Nyberg-Swanson House (ca 1912)
Nestled amidst the sun-kissed shores of Dania Beach, the Nyberg-Swanson House stands as a living testament to a bygone era, offering a captivating glimpse into the past. This historic gem, dating back to approximately 1912, has withstood the test of time, preserving its architectural elegance and becoming an emblem of the region's rich heritage.

The house is lovingly referred to by locals as the "Time Capsule Of Dania Beach," has seen a myriad of events unfold over the past century. Constructed in the Early 20th Century, the house initially served as a private residence for the Nyberg family, prominent figures in the local community. Later, it passed into the hands of the Swanson family, adding further layers of history and memories to its walls.

As one of the most cherished historical landmarks in Dania Beach, the Nyberg-Swanson House beckons curious minds and captures the hearts of all who wander through its storied halls. Its enduring charm and historical significance have earned it a place in the hearts of locals and tourists alike, making it a must-visit destination for those eager to delve into the past and savor the beauty of a bygone era.

I.T. Parker House (1920’s)
The I.T. Parker House stands as a sterling example of Mediterranean Revival architecture, which was immensely popular in Florida during the 1920’s. This architectural Style boasts a seamless blend of Spanish and Italian influences, featuring: Stucco Walls, Red-Tile Roofs, Arched Windows, and Decorative Wrought-Iron Accents.

Despite the passage of time, the I.T. Parker House retains its original charm, thanks to dedicated preservation efforts by local historical societies and the community. Meticulous restoration work has ensured that the Architectural Elements remain intact, allowing visitors to step back in time and relish the splendor of the Roaring Twenties.

The house now serves as a living museum, offering guided tours that provide an immersive experience into the lives of the Parker family and the lavish lifestyle they once enjoyed. As visitors stroll through the elegantly adorned rooms, they can't help but marvel at the attention to detail and craftsmanship that defined the era.

Bank Of Dania (1923)
A.C. Frost originally founded the Bank Of Dania on May 1st, 1912. The Bank’s Founders included: Frost, William S. Parker, I.T. Parker, A.J. Ryan, Sr., and M.C. Hardee. Originally located at 1 North Federal Highway, where the Pirate’s Inn stands today, the Bank Of Dania moved its location to 2 South Federal Highway in 1926, where it remained until 1956. Designed by Architects John Peterson and J.L. Hardgrove, construction on the new bank began in 1923.

In 1926, the bank was reorganized as the Dania Bank and taken over by the Parker brothers. The final cost of the structure totaled a whopping $35,000. The bank shared the building with other businesses such as the T & T Grocery. In 1956, the bank moved to a new location at 255 East Dania Beach Boulevard and the old bank building sat idle until the city purchased the structure in 1966. The building currently lies at the heart of the city’s CRA District and remains a staple to the community’s economic development.

Art J. Ryan House (Late 1920’s)
Designed by the visionary Architect Art J. Ryan himself, this house is a striking example of the Art Deco Style that flourished during the Roaring Twenties. Embracing the exuberance of the Jazz Age, the house boasts a unique blend of geometric shapes, bold colors, and lavish ornamentation. Its distinctive facade stands as a tribute to the optimism and prosperity that characterized the interwar period.

The Late 1920’s were a time of cultural revolution, where creative expression flourished in all its forms. The Art J. Ryan House served as a vibrant hub for artists, writers, and intellectuals, hosting extravagant soirées that were attended by luminaries of the time. The walls of the house witnessed the birth of countless ideas that would go on to shape the cultural landscape for generations to come.

Dania Library & Woman’s Club (1935)
Established in 1935, this iconic institution has witnessed the passage of time, serving as a symbol of community spirit and a testament to the dedication of women in shaping the future.

The Dania Library & Woman’s Club traces its roots back to an era when women's participation in civic matters was limited. Against the backdrop of the Great Depression, a group of visionary women came together with a shared vision: to create a place where knowledge could flourish and the community could thrive. This ambitious endeavor marked the dawn of the Dania Library & Woman’s Club, an organization that would go on to play a pivotal role in fostering education, culture, and social welfare.

The Dania Library & Woman’s Club continues to stand tall as a timeless legacy of unity, knowledge, and women's empowerment. Through the years, it has adapted to changing times, incorporating modern technologies and expanding its outreach efforts. Still, it remains deeply rooted in its original mission - to serve as a sanctuary for knowledge, an empowering force for women, and a source of inspiration for the entire community.

Hotel Poinciana (1926)
Originally built in 1926, the Hotel Poinciana has witnessed the evolution of Dania Beach from a quaint seaside town to the vibrant destination it is today. Its walls have echoed with the laughter of celebrities, the chatter of esteemed guests, and the clinking of champagne glasses during the extravagant parties of the Jazz Age. Over the years, the hotel has undergone several renovations, but it has always managed to retain its old-world charm, making it a cherished landmark in South Florida.

Crudup-Hansen House (1938)
Built by the Crudup family in the late 1930s, the house was originally a simple yet elegant one-story structure that mirrored the architectural trends of the time. It was a period when Florida's landscape witnessed a surge in residential development, capturing the essence of the state's unique charm.

Over the years, the Crudup-Hansen House underwent several transformations, with the most significant occurring in the 1960’s when the Hansen family acquired the property. The Hansen’s expanded the house, adding a second floor and incorporating distinctive design elements that blended seamlessly with the original architecture. Today, the house stands as an exquisite blend of classic and modern features, preserving its historical allure while adapting to contemporary needs.

The front facade boasts a mix of Colonial Revival and Mediterranean Revival influences, characterized by its symmetrical design, a prominent central entrance, and a charming portico supported by grand columns.

Eureka Masonic Lodge (1952)
The Enigmatic Eureka Masonic Lodge is a historical treasure that has stood the test of time since its establishment in 1952. This Masonic Lodge, shrouded in an aura of secrecy and tradition, holds a significant place in the heart of the community, serving as a beacon of unity, philanthropy, and fraternal bond.

The roots of the Eureka Masonic Lodge stretch back to the centuries-old traditions of Freemasonry. Masonic Lodges have historically been a focal point for those seeking spiritual enlightenment, mutual support, and camaraderie.

Constructed in 1952, the two-story concrete block structure lies at 101 Southeast 1st Avenue, Dania Beach, Florida 33004. A double door entrance with a flat hood is centered to the west elevation. Most of the original structure’s fenestration remains intact and includes 6/6 double-hung sash and metal awning windows. The structure retains its architectural integrity and is a well-maintained example of a commercial concrete block structure.

A City Committed To Preservation
These are just a few of the many historic landmarks that make Dania Beach an enchanting city to explore for history enthusiasts and tourists alike. Dania Beach is dedicated to preserving its heritage and these historical landmarks. The city's commitment to its rich past is reinforced by a historic preservation ordinance that promotes the identification, evaluation, rehabilitation, and adaptive use of its architectural treasures.

Looking Forward - A Strategic Plan
While preserving its history, Dania Beach also has its eyes set on a bright future. The city's strategic plan outlines a vision for sustainable growth and development, ensuring that the city continues to thrive while retaining its unique identity is available at:

The strategic plan encompasses various key areas, including Infrastructure Improvements, Economic Development, Environmental Preservation and Community Engagement. By setting clear objectives and implementing actionable strategies, the plan aims to elevate Dania Beach to new heights without compromising the essence of its history.

As you stroll along its streets, the echoes of the past resonate through its historic landmarks, charming homes, and cultural sites. It is a city that celebrates its roots, cherishes its heritage, and looks to the future with hope and optimism.

So, whether you are an enthusiastic history buff or a seeker of unique experiences, Dania Beach promises to enchant you with its timeless charm and the warmth of its hospitable community. Discover the city that embraces its past to create a vibrant present and an exciting future, all in one captivating destination.

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