Oakland Park: A Brief History
The first non-Indian settlers in what is today Oakland Park were Tom and Netta Whidby, who came from Georgia in 1901 to farm land north of what is now Northeast 38th Street adjacent the Florida East Coast Railway tracks. By the 1910s, this largely rural area north of Fort Lauderdale in what is now Wilton Manors and Oakland Park became known as “Colohatchee.”
In 1922, with the Florida land boom in full swing, the Barkdull Investment Company planned a housing development east of Dixie Highway and north of the North Fork of Middle River. It was named “Oakland Park” in honor of the beautiful oaks lining the riverfront. Local citizens from north of North Fork began to use the name “Oakland Park” to define their community. By December of 1925, the Oakland Parkers prepared to incorporate when they were informed a new city, “Floranada,” a combination of Florida and Canada, had been incorporated around them. Floranada, the project of group of wealthy Palm Beach investors, was meant to be an exclusive resort community extending from the ocean to U.S. 441 and from North Fork of Middle River to Cypress Creek. Unfortunately, the boom had already begun to go bust. Slowly the wealthy backers pulled out of the Floranada project and the local citizens were left with the care of a huge city with very few citizens and virtually no funds. On July 1, 1929, Floranada was dissolved and a new city, Oakland Park, was incorporated. The new town extended from Federal Highway on the east to Northeast Third Avenue and from North Fork of Middle River to Prospect Road.
In subsequent years, the little city of Oakland Park was largely the home of area farmers and ranchers. The small Oakland Park Methodist Church (the only church in town at that time) was the hub of social activities. Oakland Park Elementary School (on the National Register of Historic Places) opened in 1925 and is today the oldest functioning school in the county. Dixie Highway was the “main drag,” home to most of the local businesses.
Modern Oakland Park
In the 1960s-70s, Broward County began to experience a new boom, with modern subdivisions and condominiums appearing in every municipality and in between. Oakland Park became a commercial and industrial hub as well as bedroom community to burgeoning Fort Lauderdale. Today it is 8.1 square miles and approximately 42,000 residents call Oakland Park home. The modern city boasts wonderful parks and recreation facilities, an independent library, and amenities of much larger communities. Once proud to be “a small town in a big city,” Oakland Park is now a “city on the move.”
Further Oakland Park History
For more reading on Oakland Park's rich history, check out the following files:
- "Oakland Park's History CA. 1952" by Ruth Brenner, with edits by Darleen Mitchell, Caryl Stevens, and Susan Gillis
- "Twentieth Century Journey: A History of the City of Oakland Park" by Paul S. George
- "Oakland Park Before It Was Oakland Park," a presentation by Susan Gillis
Oakland Park Library Digital Collection
The City of Oakland Park, incorporated in 1929, is located in the heart of Broward County, Florida. The Ethel M. Gordon Oakland Park Library’s historical archive comprises images and documents originally collected by the Oakland Park Historical Society and the City. It is a unique resource that reveals the history of a once tiny farming town which has grown to an active urban community. This material has rarely been seen by the public; today it is the goal of the Ethel M. Gordon Oakland Park Library to ensure access to a significant historical collection. To visit the Archives, make a donation, or request a copy of any of the items presented here, please contact Danielle Giguere at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit