October 19-26: Grant and I Take a Caribbean Cruise
A Transition Note for 1991
Return to the Index for 1991

February 8-17, 1991
A Trip with Grant to the Condo in Fort Lauderdale


Grant went back down to Florida in January, and by the time I was able to come down early in February, the little condo that had looked so rundown last year when we bought it had been transformed. Before looking at some pictures, though, you might want to see what the layout of the condo was, and before you see that, you should know where the condo actually is. If I were writing this in 1990, I'd have to go scan a map of Fort Lauderdale, but today my job is easier.

First of all, if you don't know where Fort Lauderdale is, this map will show you.

Miami is, of course, the largest city in South Florida, but the entire area north of that metropolis, all the way up through Palm Beach, is pretty much continuous urban area now. Originally, the city north of Miami was Hollywood, then there came Fort Lauderdale, then Boca Raton and finally the Palm Beaches (Palm Beach and West Palm Beach). From the north side of the Palm Beaches to the south side of Miami is over 100 miles.

After World War II, the population of South Florida began to increase rapidly, it being the retirement destination of choice for just about everyone from the Northeast. Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood grew together, and today they share the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, where we fly in when we come by air. The Palm Beaches share West Palm Beach International Airport, and of course, Miami has its own.

Interstate 95 connects all these cities; before that highway was built, they were connected by US Highway 1, which actually runs from the US-Canada border all the way down the east coast to Key West. Now, US 1 carries mostly local traffic, and it tends to be the main drag in all of the multitude of coast cities that it goes through. In Fort Lauderdale, it is known as Federal Highway, and it is about three blocks west of the condo.

As we zoom in on the Fort Lauderdale area, you can begin to see how the city is laid out.

Fort Lauderdale actually extends another few miles north, but that area of town is not consequential for you to get an idea of where the condo is. On the map at right, you can see Interstate 95 coming south about three miles inland from the ocean, and you can also see US  coming down from the north about a mile inland from the sea.

When US 1 reaches Sunrise Boulevard (the east-west street that is identified on the map as Florida Highway 838), it jogs west for about a mile before heading south again. I have driven this highway before, and know that it has to make these inland jogs every so often because the coastline gradually comes westward as you head south.

Just south of downtown Fort Lauderdale, the New River cuts inland. This tidal river continues inland about five miles before petering out. There is not much flow to the river, as Florida is so flat and so low here; it mainly serves as a highway for boats, which was one thing that attracted us to this area. The Interstate goes over the river, but US 1 goes under it, just a few blocks west of the condo.

On this map, you can begin to see all the waterways that have earned Fort Lauderdale the moniker "The Venice of America".

The Intracoastal Waterway (which you will learn more about in this photo album) is a protected waterway that extends up and down the East Coast- from Key West to New York City. As it passes through Fort Lauderdale, it is just west of a barrier island full of hotels and condos, and there are inlets every five or ten miles that allow boats to go out to the ocean.

Closing in on the condo's location, I can mark it for the first time, and I have marked some of the other features mentioned above. Las Olas Boulevard, one block north of Riverview Gardens, is Fort Lauderdale's "Rodeo Drive", a very upscale shopping street with restaurants, boutiques, art galleries and such. Riverview Gardens is on SE 4th Street, on the south side of the street and right on the New River. That's what attracted Grant to the location- it was right on the the major waterway that runs through the city, and there is always boat traffic to watch! From the condo, you can walk anywhere downtown as it is only six or seven short blocks away.

Now let's zoom all the way in and also switch to an aerial view so you can see the complex that is Riverview Gardens. Constructed in the late 1950s as an apartment building, it was built, as many buildings in South Florida are, out of cinderblock- at least for the exterior walls.

In the hot, humid, sea-air climate of South Florida, wood tends to rot more quickly than in drier, cooler areas. While it is often used in private homes for floor joists, at least outside walls are normally cinderblock or concrete (although stucco and siding make them look like any houses anywhere.

In the early 1970s, Riverview Gardens Apartments became Riverview Gardens Condominiums; ours was the first condo conversion anywhere on the New River, and it is well-enough known that we are often pointed out by tour boats such as The Jungle Queen (a simulated paddle-wheel excursion boat that goes up and down the river a few times a day).

I have marked where our condo is in the complex. It is on the second floor (out of three) at the northeast corner of the complex. As it turned out, the little one-bedroom condo has some of the best river and city views in the entire complex. It was a good choice for another reason too, that I'll talk about in a moment. We look out on the parking area also, and the space that came with the unit is on the far side of the area along the trees, and so is shady much of the day.

To show you where the condo is, let's look at a first picture. This view, taken from the southeast corner of the parking lot, looks north towards the northwest corner of the building. There are stairs there, and an elevator as well; there is another set of stairs just my right. The dock is also off to my right, but we'll look at that in a moment. For now, I went up the stairs to my right to the second floor, and then walked down towards the large shefflera.

If you look at the picture at the far right, come towards the camera from the shefflera; the first window is our picture window and the next opening is the door and window installed when the breezeway was closed in. Look immediately below on the first floor, and you will see that there is still a breezeway that gives access from the parking lot to the courtyard and pool area. So the first floor apartment below ours doesn't have that extra space like we do and the third floor one does.

I stopped with the kitchen window of the apartment next to ours and took a picture looking past our door/window and picture window towards the shefflera and elevator/stairs, and that is the picture at the immediate right.

Since we have made our changes, we have decided to use the "breezeway door" as our front door from now on. Outside door at the north end of the apartment there is a large air conditioner that sticks through the wall, so by using this door guests can avoid seeing that old-style air unit. Riverview Gardens has just finished painting the railings and the outside walls of the complex.

Finally, here's a diagram of the condo itself. The diagram is oriented with north at the left, although the aerial view has north at the top. This means that the picture window offers views directly up the river, across the parking area to downtown and even out to the northwest. The kitchen and bathroom windows look north.

Before the apartments were converted into condos in the 1970s, there was an interior walkway leading to the "back doors" of the apartments. The developer closed this walkway and gave each apartment extra square footage and expansive views of the courtyard.

Most of them turned the new space into sunrooms, but we couldn't do that since this new area couldn't have any windows as it abutted other apartments. We did get a new door and large window, though, which gave us more river views. Other than the units on the river side of the building, ours is one of only two one-bedroom units with a living room window that looks out onto the river; everyone else's look out onto the courtyard.

There used to be a "back door" from the bedroom to the former breezeway, and sliding glass doors from the living room to the breezeway. The sliding glass doors were removed and now there is an open archway, and the back door was removed and replaced with a passthrough and shelves between the bedroom and what is now a sleeping alcove. The rest of the diagram is pretty self-explanatory, and will allow you to orient yourself when you look at the first pictures I took of the inside of the condo after Grant had made significant changes to it.

First of all, here are three pictures, all taken from the archway that used to be sliding glass doors; they look west at the picture window on the west wall of the living room, then towards the kitchen area in the northwest corner of the living area, and finally north at what used to be front door (adjacent to the pantry):

Here, in the living room, is the new baker's rack that Grant ordered from his previous employer in Chicago. The television is on it, a new boom box that Grant purchased, and a VCR that Ty and Scott gave us for Christmas. Grant also brought his portable CD player that I gave him for Christmas, but hasn't hooked it up yet. He has purchased some baskets for decoration and to hide the cords from the stereo and television. We got a new rattan set from Burdines in tones of sea foam and salmon, and Grant has already had Scott make some contrasting pillows. At Sears, we found area rugs and towels to match this color scheme.

We have taken down an old ceiling fan, and the electrician is in the middle of installing the track lighting and the new fans which we will be buying this week. I had the guys move their jackets for a moment for this picture.

For a dining room table, we simply purchased an outdoor patio set, without the umbrella. It is white, and open, and it serves its purpose very nicely. Note the new vertical blinds that Grant has purchased. We installed them together, and they work wonderfully. All we have done with the kitchen is to clean it up and stock it with more equipment that we have brought from Dallas.

We are going to be fixing supper for Ty and Scott, who are in the bedroom area with Grant looking around, and we have stopped eating out all the time and are fixing our own meals here as well. The place is feeling very much like home.

Being designers, Grant and I are both hoping that Ty and Scott will have some good ideas on what kind of improvements to make, but this will be a slow process. It is the process that is important, for having this project to work on is something that can occupy Grant's time, now that he has the time to take it on, as he has recently become officially disabled, and no longer works at Gabberts.

At right is a picture of the bedroom looking from the doorway back towards the passthrough where a window looking out on the breezeway used to be. The former owner put some shelves here, but I am not sure what we might do with it in the future.

Other than a new paint job inside, Grant's major change so far was a new floor. The former owner moved into a retirement home, and it was her daughter that put the unit on the market. When we bought it, the floor was a pretty ugly kind of linoleum. There was no way to make it presentable, so Grant had it torn up and large white tiles put down throughout the condo. Grant has always been fond of a blue and white color scheme, and he offset the white tile floor with blue accents and a blue bedspread in the bedroom.

One other thing you might notice in the pictures so far is that the apartments here have jalousie windows; these are the kind that consist of glass panes in an aluminum framework that open and close with a crank. These windows are common in Florida, as they can open along their entire height and width thus maximizing air flow- a critical factor in such a warm climate. One problem is that they never close extremely tightly, and so dust can get and air-conditioned air can leak out. Grant and I are already considering replacing them, as a few other owners have already done.

While Grant certainly liked the fact that the condo was right on the river, thus providing him with an endless parade of boats to watch going up and down the river, he also loved the fact that Riverview Gardens also has its own dock on the river, with four boat spaces for owners to use. Right now, there is one space open, and I can already see the wheels turning in Grant's head about possibly leasing the open space (there is a small monthly fee for it) and getting a small (20 ft.) power boat to put in it.

I have two views of the dock area at Riverview Gardens. The first, at far left, was taken from the southwest corner of the second floor walkway, and you can see some of the small boats docked there (and another, larger boat going by). Grant just loves the location of the condo- right by the river and its constant boat traffic.

At left is the dock area as seen from the ground floor- right at the southeast corner of the parking lot. As you can see from the aerial view above, the view looks basically east (downstream) along the river.

When I talk with Grant on the phone, he is always telling me about all the boats that are going up and down the river, and how much he enjoys seeing them. The Jungle Queen comes by four times a day, and the tourists on it are always waving to him if he happens to be out on the dock. There are other tourist cruise boats and of course innumerable private boats- from kayaks to $50 million ocean-going mega-yachts.

Buying this condo is undoubtedly the best thing I have been able to do for Grant- although our recent purchase of a very small powerboat is a close second. The boat we bought is suited to motoring up and down the river, through Fort Lauderdale's many canals, along the Intracoastal Waterway and even just a short distance out into the Atlantic through one of the inlets.

The view at right didn't turn out very well, but it is a view looking upriver from the condo, taken in the early evening. You can see another condo building on our side of the river, and in the distance across the river is the new Auto Nation building and a couple of lower county buildings- including the new justice center.

We actually kept our little boat at the dock here for a short time, but since we were gone so often it made more sense to keep it just a short ways upriver at a place called Shirttail Charlie's Marina. (It is located a little beyond those county buildings I mentioned above. When we are not using the boat, it is kept inside a huge structure that has multiple levels for boat storage. (Boats up to thirty feet long can easily be accommodated, lifted in and out of their cubbyholes by a special kind of forklift. When we want to use it, we just call them and they take it out and drop it in the water for us.

Grant loves to go out on it, and it gives him a lot to do when he wants to get out of the condo. It is a lot easier to get it in and out than the boat that Ty and Scott have. Having it at the condo would be more convenient, but sitting in the water for extended periods is not good for the bottom of the boat; barnacles and other detritus clings to the bottom and it has to be cleaned professionally every so often. Plus, the wakes of the boats that go by can cause it to bang against the dock, and even though the boat has fenders, it is still hard on it. At the Marina, there is little or no maintenance; being inside, it doesn't even get dusty.

Finally, I have a view taken from just outside our door looking towards downtown Fort Lauderdale (northwest). In doing this album page (done in 2016) I was struck by how much the view has changed. Although the field of view is not identical, I will mark one common thing on both pictures- our parking space. In the picture from this year, my Datsun 200SX is parked there; in the one taken in 2016, it is my 2011 Hyundai Elantra that occupies the same physical space (although the layout of the parking lot has been altered:

1991 Northwest View

2016 Northwest View

I stayed in Fort Lauderdale for a week, and then returned home for more business assignments. Grant stayed on in Fort Lauderdale for another few weeks before he, too, returned to Dallas for a while.

You can use the links below to continue to another photo album page.

October 19-26: Grant and I Take a Caribbean Cruise
A Transition Note for 1991
Return to the Index for 1991