Winter 2022/2023

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Page 177 of 179

IN RETROSPECT PHOTO IS COURTESY OF THE RIVERSIDE HOTEL. GREAT EXPECTATIONS Two Midwestern brothers opened the doors to what would become one of Fort Lauderdale's endearing – and enduring – properties, The Riverside Hotel. BY JENNY STARR PEREZ WHEN BROTHERS JOHN AND PRESTON WELLS would travel from Chicago to Fort Lauderdale in the early 1930s, like many northerners, they longed to experience the idyllic pleasures of the state developers like Henry Flagler had placed in the public eye a decade earlier. Raised in the American Midwest but taught to be keen sportsmen while vacationing on their family's expansive estate in rural England, the young men enjoyed warm-weathered days along the Florida coastline, basking in hours spent fishing on the clear blue open water. However, when the sun would set and the brothers arrived back at shore, they often noted the need for better lodging in the balmy, sun-filled paradise. Preston soon purchased a lodging house by the river, across the street from what he and John would eventually turn into one of the city's iconic fixtures, The Riverside Hotel. Opened in 1936, the Riverside Hotel (originally called the Champ Carr, after the first mate of the brothers' fishing boat captain), was designed by star architect Francis Louis Abreu, a Cuban-born, Cornell graduate who had gained prestige and influence through his work building the lavish Las Olas Casino and several luxurious vacation homes in the region. The property originally had 80 rooms. More notable was the Mediterranean Revival design of the architecture, a prominent staple in Abreu's work and that of other properties in the area, but also a characteristic influenced by the Wells brothers' travels to the European continent. Fast forward to 2022 and the Riverside Hotel, now an expanded and renovated property, maintains its status as a monument to the charm of the French, Spanish and Italian architecture of its time in the original lodge. It also remains the only hotel on Las Olas Boulevard, which has since become the bustling heart and soul of Fort Lauderdale. A stay at the hotel will have visitors surrounded by world-class restaurants, buzzing nightclubs, and picturesque courtyards that still delight all who enter the space. Pro tip: Lodge at one of the suites in the newer executive tower, where dazzling, Instagram-worthy city and river views await to be seen. The Riverside Hotel is the only hotel situated in Las Olas Boulevard, a prime location that allows guests to enjoy the city and take in all that it has to offer. 176 Winter 2022

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