The Broward County Historical Commission, long housed on the second floor of a nondescript building attached to a parking garage, recently moved into its new headquarters in the historic West Side Grade School, located at 301 S.W. 13th Ave., Fort Lauderdale. The West Side School was designed in 1923 by locally prominent architect Morris Peterman and was built the same year by contractor Cayot and Hart.
“Located in the heart the Sailboat Bend historic district, the rehabilitated school serves as an anchor for the area and a welcoming place for the Historical Commission's patrons,” said David Baber, administrator of the Historical Commission.
Baber says that a grand opening is in the works and will be announced at a later date.
The new Historical Commission home, a fine 1923 era school, has been renovated by Artspace Projects, America's leading nonprofit real estate developer. The Historical Commission now has space for changing gallery exhibits, a spacious library and reading room, storage for archives, artifacts and archeological materials and a meeting room capable of holding events for up to 100 people. The new building nearly doubles the space of the Commission's former facility.
According to Baber, Artspace's mission was to create, foster and preserve affordable space for artists and art organizations. Of 32 such projects they have undertaken in the United States, this is their first in Florida. It consisted of both the renovation of the school site and a new 37-unit affordable apartment complex for artists. The project, which took almost 10 years to complete, was a team effort between Artspace, the city, the County and Lennar Corporation.
“This new facility allows us to showcase many of Broward County's historical artifacts in ways we have previously not been able to do because of limited space and inadequate lighting,” said Denyse Cunningham, Historical Commission curator. “We can now truly help educate the public about all aspects of historical significance about Broward County.”
The staff of the Historical Commission plan on presenting history exhibits that will complement programs that have been in place for some time, such as the popular Brown Bag lunches. The first gallery exhibit will be on the history of the Sailboat Bend neighborhood and is scheduled to open in January 2010. The first Brown Bag lunch will be held on November 9 at noon. The subject is the history of the West Side School.
Staff members of the Historical Commission, left to right, are Marcia Seldine, Matthew DeFelice, Denyse Cunningham, David Baber and Helen Landers.
The Broward County Historical Commission is a County agency committed to preserving the records and artifacts of Broward County and encouraging awareness of local history. The Historical Commission was created by County ordinance in 1971, and consists of a board of 20 appointed commissioners. A professional staff of five oversees the day-to-day operation of the Commission's office and archives. In addition to Baber and Cunningham, staff members are: Matthew DeFelice, county archaeologist; Helen Landers, county historian; and Marcia Seldine, administrative coordinator