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We enjoy visiting unique museums so when we started researching the attractions around Fort Lauderdale, we came across the Stranahan Museum. We had no idea who the Stranahans were but we love learning about the history of the cities we visit. Even better was that our hotel was right next to the museum.
We were staying at the Riverside Hotel and although the museum was right next to it, we completely missed it at first because the historical house is nestled among enormous buildings. It's a fairly big house but with all of the newer modern buildings, it can appear really small.
There are three guided tours throughout the day at 1PM, 2PM and 3PM and we purchased the first tour at 1PM. The gentleman who was helping us with our tickets was so kind and even offered to store our backpacks in his office. The grounds are very well maintained and the museum is even rented out at times for events and weddings.
Our tour guide was Evelyn and before we headed inside the Stranahan home, she gave us a little history about the New River, where the house sits right in front of. The Stranahan House was built in 1901 and it's the oldest existing structure in Broward county. She went over a few housekeeping rules and then we headed indoors.
The tour started with the history of Frank Stranahan and how he bought the house originally as a trading post. He established a thriving trading business with the Seminole Indians at the time. Most of the tour talked about Ivy Stranahan, who was Frank's wife. Ivy was a teacher but when she married Frank, she focused more on other duties in the community and became a prominent social leader in many aspects.
She was involved in the women's suffrage movement and was the forefront of Indian reform for the Seminoles. She also was persistent in passing various laws and if you are a Floridian, you might have heard of the "Florida's Homestead Exemption Law." It's still in effect today and you can thank Ivy for passing this very prominent law. Basically this law protects the value of your home from property taxes, creditors, and circumstances that arise from the death of the homeowner's spouse.
As we learned about Ivy's extraordinary life, we toured several rooms both upstairs and downstairs. Everything inside was authentic and resembled what their life was like in the early 1900s. All of the rooms were fascinating to us and we really enjoyed exploring the kitchen. We saw a vintage toaster and couldn't help but wonder how many people burnt themselves operating that thing! We also noticed the old washing board and old egg beater with a hand crank, which our grandmother kept in her basement, and had a nostalgic moment.
There were several bedrooms upstairs and the master bedroom was fairly large and also had access to the balcony. The balcony was huge and there was a soft breeze that came from the New River.
Ivy lived a very long life and passed away at the age of 90 in 1971. At the end of the tour, we met John, who completed the tour by answering any questions we had. We really enjoyed talking to John because he has been the caretaker for the house for more than 26 years and he actually knew Ivy! He was a wealth of information and we stuck around after the tour to chat with him a little more. He's very passionate about the Stranahan House and Fort Lauderdale. So much so that he even sells hand-crafted wooden cars that he makes with his son and donates the proceeds to the house.
We absolutely enjoyed our tour and learned so much from both Evelyn and John. We were also glad that the historic house was air conditioned since our tour was roughly an hour. That was probably the only part that wasn't vintage :)
Did you know about Ivy Stranahan? Do you enjoy museums like this? We'd love to know your thoughts!