When the idea to pave a road through a sometimes-boggy patch of land was created, it was unlikely that anyone involved in this planning foresaw that a dirt path would, in time, become a grand boulevard lined with upscale boutiques and shops, restaurants, al fresco cafes, a world-class hotel, and companies doing business around the globe.
But over the course of the next century, that’s exactly what happened along Las Olas Boulevard—thanks to the vision of Preston and John Wells, two wealthy brothers from Chicago who founded The Las Olas Company in 1935. With the help of local resident Champ Carr, the two brothers made their first mark on Las Olas with the opening of Hotel Champ Carr.
At the end of World War II in 1945, many of the men and women who served at Fort Lauderdale’s military bases, remained in the city, leading to a new economic boom. It was around that time when Champ Carr stepped down as GM of Hotel Champ Carr and The Las Olas Company renamed the property Riverside Hotel, which to this day still remains the “crown jewel” of Fort Lauderdale.
As The Las Olas Company continued to grow, so did the number of upscale boutiques along Las Olas Boulevard.
It wasn’t until the early 1950’s that the boulevard became a significant shopping district. In a major ribbon cutting ceremony in 1956 with Annie Beck and Ivy Stranahan, the “mother of Fort Lauderdale,” Las Olas Boulevard completed a major widening and became a much sought after destination during the economic prosperity of Fort Lauderdale in the 1960’s. Las Olas not only attracted merchants opening new stores, but banks, insurance companies, law firms, accountants and other professionals seeking to do business in the area.