Deepest of all Florida ports, Port Everglades is the county seat of Broward County in southeast Florida. It lies about 25 miles north of Miami at the mouth of the New River. Port Everglades occupies land in three Florida municipalities: Hollywood, Fort Lauderdale, and Dania Beach. The Broward County Board of Commissioners is responsible for port operations.
Port Everglades is one of the United States’ busiest container ports, an important hub for storage and distribution of petroleum, and a liberty port for the US Navy. It’s also one of the busiest cruise ports in the world, hosting over four million passengers every year.
Although they were gone by the time European settlers arrived in 1788, the indigenous Tequesta people lived there. Archeological evidence suggests they inhabited the area from 500 BC before Europeans arrived.
In 1838, the Second Seminole War led to the establishment of Fort Lauderdale, the name adopted by the town that was settled there in 1893. In 1895, the Florida East Coast Railway arrived. In 1935, the city initiated an annual National Collegiate Aquatic Forum to attract college students to the town, establishing a long tradition of famous spring breaks.
What is known today as Port Everglades was used by local farmers to ship their produce. In 1911, when Fort Lauderdale was incorporated, local business groups began to press for a deep water port for farmers. But it was the founder of the City of Hollywood, John Wesley Young, that played the most important role in developing a deep harbor on Lake Mabel. He bought over a thousand acres by the lake and created the Hollywood Harbor Development Company. At this time, all of Broward County had fewer than 30 thousand residents.
Harbor development began in 1925. Lumberjacks were imported from Vermont to clear mangrove jungles. Nationwide economic crisis forced Young to appeal to the voters of both Hollywood and Fort Lauderdale who approved the sale of $2 million in bonds to improve the harbor.
A serious 1926 hurricane slowed progress, and a real estate crash forced Young to leave the project. But by this time, its potential was well known, and the Florida legislature established the Broward County Port Authority. President Calvin Coolidge attended a flawed dedication ceremony in 1928. By the end of the year, cotton products were leaving the port bound for Cuba, the Caribbean, and Latin America.
In 1932, Port Everglades got its first manager, Warren T. Eller, who knew that its open storage space was a major advantage. He approached companies that handled bulk commodities (like petroleum, lumber, cement, and scrap metal) and shippers carrying cargo to Asia. Then in the 1940s, military operations grew in Port Everglades.
By the 1950s, Port Everglades was already on the itinerary for several world cruises. The local Rotary Club started greeting ships and giving Florida orange juice to the passengers. In 1959, the Florida legislature created a new port charter. Growth continued through the 1960s, when petroleum was the dominant cargo, and the 1970s, when Foreign Trade Zone No. 25 was opened.
In the 1990s, the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center, new parking garages, and additional cruise and cargo facility modernizations further enhanced the port’s competitive position. Seaport governance was transferred to the Broward County government in 1994, and port activity was further diversified. During this time, a container traffic boom made Port Everglades one of the country’s busiest container ports.