First Words — 01 December 2017
Something new, and old, revealed on Las Olas

By Mark Gauert

City & Shore Magazine

I’m used to the way things are around here.

Starbucks down the street from my office on Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale. Tiffany & Co., Chanel and St. John at the intersection of Hibiscus and Worth Avenue in Palm Beach. Advance Auto Parts on the corner of Arthur Street and Dixie Highway in Hollywood. (I know how to have fun).

I was used to the way things are around here.

Until the morning they were not.

I was on my way to Starbucks, looking across Las Olas at storefronts I was used to seeing each day. An art store next to a real estate office next to a clothing boutique, all in a white building with a red-tile roof, between a crêpe restaurant and an ice cream shop.

But this morning, construction workers were busy peeling back the building’s façade. The art store, real estate office and boutique were all dark. Their signs were down, too, in clouds of masonry dust.

And in their place – hidden for years behind the façade – was something new.

And old.

DOWDY’S MKT.,” read the sign the workers had uncovered atop the building, in a font you’d expect to see on the false-front of a saloon in a Western.

Nothing like what I’m used to seeing around here. Nothing like anything else on Las Olas. More like somebody stuck a black-and-white photo from an old scrapbook between color glossies in a fine arts gallery.

But here’s the thing about the way things are around here: They weren’t always the way we’re used to seeing them.

There’s not much in the historical record today about Dowdy’s. A story in the Fort Lauderdale News on Oct. 24, 1946, reports there was “plenty of oleo [margarine] available [there] for 45 cents, and butter for $1.” Another story in the 1950s reports that a man was arrested there “for the larceny of a ham.’’

But it’s clear Dowdy’s Market was there long before the art store, real estate office and boutique. Sometime, long before someone put up the white building with the red-tile roof, people were used to looking across Las Olas and seeing that sign.

Until their morning it was not.

For many years, we published a feature in City & Shore called Then & Now. I used to go through old photos from historical societies in Broward and Palm Beach counties, then send a photographer to shoot the scene from the same spot today.

It wasn’t easy. So much has changed here, since our earliest landmark photograph – apparently of the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse, about 1879.

I thought about that as I peeled back the pages of Looking Back, a new book of historical photos of Broward and Palm Beach counties produced by the Sun Sentinel. I saw a photo of Arthur Street and Dixie Highway in Hollywood – before there was an Advance Auto Parts. I saw a photo of the intersection of Hibiscus and Worth Avenue – before Tiffany & Co., Chanel or St. John.

I saw a photo of Las Olas Boulevard – long before Dowdy’s Market, or the current renovations going on there (pg. XX), or the white building with the red tiles or the Starbucks where I was settling in now with my morning cup.

And I knew I’d never be able to see the way things are around here the same way again.

Mark Gauert

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