Measured against the turmoil and triumphs of preceding decades, the '70s in Fort Lauderdale were, perhaps thankfully, rather bland.
Development continued its steady course. The Landmark Bank, the city's first skyscraper with 28 stories, signaled the start of vertical growth downtown. Home to the Regions Bank, and renovated extensively over the years, it still stands at the corner of Southeast Third Avenue and Southeast Second Street.
Further downtown development was spurred by the construction of the federal courthouse a block away along Broward Boulevard. The completion of Interstate 95 in 1977 nudged the population outward, away from the city proper.
During this decade, the city looked back to its turn-of-the-century roots, however shallow they may have been. Officials established Fort Lauderdale's first historic district, west of the downtown railroad tracks, where blacks were once confined. The New River Inn, a 1905 building on the river bank west of Andrews Avenue, became the first Fort Lauderdale structure to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Ivy Stranahan, wife of pioneer Frank Stranahan and the city's first school marm, died in 1971 at age 90.
Lethal yellowing, a disease almost biblical in its plague-like effect, destroyed nearly 100 percent of the city's majestic Jamaican Tall coconut palms. The once abundant palms lined numerous city streets, but the disease caused their coconuts to drop and fronds to turn yellow and rot.
The Seminoles, who once populated Fort Lauderdale, now began to prosper in their new reservation home. They sold land leases and discount cigarettes, and organized popular bingo games, laying the fundation for the future casinos that would generate millions for the tribe.
Blacks surmounted one of the final barriers to equality in 1971 when a federal appeals court ordered busing to integrate the county's schools. The ruling resulted from a lawsuit by Fort Lauderdale attorney George Allen, who sued for "complete desegregation" in schools. Two years later, Andrew DeGraffenreidt was elected Fort Lauderdale's first black city commissioner.
Women also reached a milestone in 1973 when Virginia Shuman Young became the city's first female mayor.
The real excitement of the decade occurred on Jan. 19, 1977, when snow fell across the city, taking stunned residents by surprise. Traffic lights sputtered out. Overburdened power lines malfunctioned. Fire departments chased small house fires sparked by overworked heaters. It was the first and last time in recorded weather history that snow fell south of Fort Pierce.
"Everybody was running around in circles, screaming at the top of their lungs," Jeff Weems, who was 12 at the time, recalled in a newspaper account. "It was the bee's knees."
That same year, crowds were electrified to the point of storming the stage where Elvis Presley was performing at the Hollywood Sportatorium, the county's largest indoor hall. It was one of Presley's last concerts. He died six months later, and was already showing signs of ill health. "He was very fat, very heavy," Jim Figurelli, the hall's concession manager, told reporters at the time.
Did you know? Vacant signs
Expecting new downtown development, the city demolished buildings around the area of Broward Boulevard and Southeast First and Second avenues, only to let the land sit vacant for several years.
The city's first skyscraper, a giddy 28 stories, was built on the site of the old Fort Lauderdale High School.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun