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Fort Lauderdale project has Seminole-related signage

The Stranahans and Seminoles have a shared history. (Damon Scott)

FORT LAUDERDALE – One of the features of an almost completed $28.4 million highway improvement and pedestrian plaza project in downtown Fort Lauderdale is signage that mention Florida’s Indigenous past and the Seminole Tribe.

The Tunnel Top Plaza project has been in work since late 2021 and is scheduled to be completed this year. The plaza project and accompanying highway work is a collaboration between the city of Fort Lauderdale and the Florida Department of Transportation.

The plaza sits atop the Henry E. Kinney Tunnel – a highway that carries U.S. Highway 1 underneath the New River and Las Olas Boulevard. The historic Stranahan House is located to the plaza’s west, while the New River Inn is to its east. Las Olas Boulevard is located to its north, and the New River is to its south.

The plaza project features a 117-foot extension of the tunnel top on the north side of Las Olas Boulevard,  shade trees and green areas, decorative sidewalks and walkways and pedestrian and landscape lighting. One of the features is four panels of signage that explain the history of the area, which includes the Seminoles and their ancestors.

The panels are titled “Stranahan Family History,” “Tunnel Construction History,” “Federal Aid Highway US1,” and “Laura Ward Plaza.”

The Stranahan House is the home of former Fort Lauderdale city pioneers Frank and Ivy Stranahan. In the late 1800s and early 1900s it also served as a trading post, general store and post office. Seminoles traded alligator hides and bird plumes with Frank Stranahan for sugar, flour, beads and other commodities. Ivy Stranahan was a conservationist and is known to have held a special relationship with the Seminoles as a schoolteacher and supporter. The Stranahan panel features an image of Seminole children at the general store.

The “Laura Ward Plaza” panel contains information about the history of the Seminoles and their ancestors in the area of the New River, including the consequences of European contact. (Laura Ward was a Broward County public servant who died in 2006).

Paul Backhouse, the tribe’s Heritage and Environment Resources Office (HERO) senior director, said he has mixed feelings about the new signage, which mention the Indigenous Tequesta and Jeaga people.

“While it is good to see the Indigenous inhabitants of Florida acknowledged, the reference to the Tequesta being the earliest is misleading as Indigenous groups have been in Florida for at least 10,000 years,” he said. “The Tequesta obviously predate European contact, but represent the group that Europeans met – a gap of millennia that conflates the timeline and makes Indigenous groups seem that they just got to Florida right before Europeans.”

Backhouse added that the Seminole context of the signage also reinforces the classic “empty Florida” theory that assumes the Seminoles largely came from somewhere other than Florida.

The Indigenous history of the area, including the Seminole Tribe, is mentioned in this panel. (Damon Scott)
The image caption on this panel mentions the Seminole Tribe’s history with the Stranahan general store. (Damon Scott)
The Stranahans and Seminoles have a shared history. (Damon Scott)
The Tunnel Top Plaza sits atop the Henry E. Kinney Tunnel in Fort Lauderdale. (Damon Scott)
The four panels of signage are located at the new Tunnel Top Plaza in downtown Fort Lauderdale. (URBNPLANR/Facebook)
Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at