Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Postcards from the Dredge

The unfortunate decimation of the quaint beachfront of Fort Lauderdale continues despite the fact that most new development has been arrested by the reversal of the real estate market.

We took a walk along that stretch of Route A1A that runs along the beach on the barrier island in the neighborhood of the gay guest houses. We were surprised to see that The Natchez, a New Orleans style guesthouse has been demolished. We suspect that the developers will now wait a few years before thinking about erecting whatever tasteless behemoth they had in mind.

Next door, the old Howard Johnson’s is still standing but it is empty and stripped of its emblematic restaurant cupola and of all signage that bore its name.

Meanwhile, one block over, the new Trump building is already up but not completed. It looks like one hull of a hulking hull of a ship. I bet they are nervous about the market for it.

Here is a good example of the sort of frightening replacements that have sprung up in the last five years: the clunky La Cascade with its gruesome faux Spanish make-up and faked grill work over flat panels where there should be windows.

Some favorites remain. Here is The Premiere where the neon still glows at dusk. (The fabulous Birch Tower behind it has lost much of its ocean view because of the new Hilton and the W on A1A). You can still lounge by the pool at The Premiere if you don’t mind gazing at the overflowing dumpster. Little uncomfortable details like that multiple in this neighborhood and are signs of psychological abandonment that mark its demise.

Some of the lovable old silliness remains:

We came upon this beautiful and flawless turquoise GE stove that had been put out with the trash. If only I had room for it, I’d have strapped it to my back and brought it home. I thought of how much Eddie would have loved it. He probably would have found a way to fit it into his luggage.

Here is the Blue Dolphin, a minor example of the old Fort Lauderdale.

My quick renovation gets rid of the front parking, replaces the bad replacement windows, adds central air, clears the encroachments, trashes the ugly awning and restores what I suspect would have been the original parapet over the entrance.

Where A1A meets Sunrise Boulevard there is a little cluster of honkytonkness where all that is left in terms of commerce are the sellers of tattoos, bikinis, and pizza. Many of its buildings are empty. This little suffering corner is now prime to become a gay oasis serving the two dozen gay guesthouses that are within walking distance, and drawing residents from Wilton Manors who ought to have a place on the beach where they can mingle with tourists.

This building in particular would make a great café/bar. (Behind it is the Holiday Inn, also now empty.) Its twin across the street had been a popular biker bar with French doors on the second level opening up onto the narrow wrap-around balcony with filigreed wrought iron railings. It is also closed. A deco version of that same idea would work well here.

I just don't know where this town is headed, but it is so easy not to think about it when there is sun on the sea, and that is almost every day.


tater said...

I received my first tattoo at that honky tonk area of Lauderdale, and would not recommend the scratchers they have working there. I didn't know better, until an artist reworked the bad stuff into something meaningful. The Trump building is as overblown as its namesake, and keeps screaming at me over and over again as if I were Rosie O'Donnell in a shouting match over style v.s. function. It doesn't seem to lean in either direction in any promising way. Thank heavens that a sour real estate market has slowed down "progress" to a trickle. Perhaps it will allow the city planning commission to earn it's title before it is too late.

Is The Palms resort still open? I loved the butt nekid pool, and the orchid flowers they decorated the toilet bowls with. oh--and the teddy bear towel origami, holding condoms and lube expectantly bedside. My last stay there was years ago...

Anonymous said...

After the mayor extended such a welcoming outreach to the gay tourists....Is it any wonder?

They need a good dose of good old gay urban piorneering....

copperred said...

I was in Ft Lauderdale for work (on such extremely short notice as to be selected for special screening, never mind that the ticket apparently wasn't paid for until I got to the gate...) DEC 19-21st and was down by the beach. Our POC who recommended the hotel is a goddess in my mind. It had been four years since my previous visit and it was a change but not as much of a shock.

Of course I did try to figure out of the rather buff, blond man with the adorable smile and the picture with a young woman on his arm at our offices was just helping out a friend in need at her work party, but that's Ft. Lauderdale for ya.

Ft. Lauderdale has a reputation in DC as THE gay retirement village for men with a moderate pension and an eye for younger men.

BigAssBelle said...

i am drooling over that aqua appliance. i, too, would have stuffed that baby in my bag and somehow managed to get it home. i am seriously confused, stylewise. the house i filled with 1800s french oak and afghani rugs and still i am drawn to the light, clean look of the '50s. sigh. i need two homes, three. that's what y'all have done, yes?

circleinasquare said...


Rey a.k.a. "Mr. Secret" said...

God, if I had seen that turquise stove, I would have strapped it to my back and carried it back to my clothing optional suite.

Rey a.k.a. "Mr. Secret" said...

God, if I saw that turquise stove, I would have strapped it to my back and carried it to my clothing optional suite.

Rey D said...

Maybe you can help me find some decently priced property down there.

David said...

I thought you had all but declared that Ft. Lauderdale was destined to become the next Gay Mecca. What's all this uncertainty now?

I enjoy your architectural commentary posts the same way I enjoy foreign movies without subtitles. I appreciate the visuals and just let the dialogue float over me, hoping for a general sense of what is being discussed.