Building a Trading Post, in this Economy?

The Exhibits Department is proud to announce the grand opening of the new, actually old, Stranahan Trading Post this fall in Big Cypress!  Ok, it isn’t really a grand opening, and it isn’t really a trading post, but it is pretty close.  This fall the museum will be opening the exhibit Striving to Thriving: An Everglades Economy, an exhibit focusing on how the Seminole Tribe has used the natural resources of the Everglades around them to not only survive in day to day life but thrive in today’s tourist and agricultural economy.  The center piece of this exhibit will be the full scale reproduced façade of Frank Stranahan’s trading post from c.1896. Many of our readers may be familiar with the Stranahan house in downtown Ft. Lauderdale on the New River.  The New River was the location of the original house and somewhere inside what stands now is what used to be the original trading post.  (For more information about the Stranahan House visit: http://stranahanhouse.org)  Throughout the 1890’s and 1900’s the Stranahans added to the building reshaping it into a stately home on the river.  But in the beginning, it was a modest house with a small trading post that was essentially the start of what is now Ft. Lauderdale.  The area in those days was called “the camp on the New River” or “the New River camp” and was where Frank Stranahan planned to build his trading post with goods and materials shipped from Boston.  It is our plan to recreate one wall of that trading post within the exhibit and include what would have been the first addition to the trading post, a wraparound porch.

Picture from Fort Lauderdale History Center: http://www.oldfortlauderdale.org.

            After some digging at the Fort Lauderdale History Center, we were able to find letters between Frank and his lawyer detailing what goods were to be shipped and the amounts of lumber that were intended to build the building.  Unfortunately for Frank, that first shipment never arrived.  After leaving port in Jacksonville the ship carrying the load sank.  Another shipment was soon to follow and the post would turn from a grouping of tents to a full fledged trading post.  From a photo of Frank on his porch and the listing of materials from that sunken ship, I have been able to put together a fairly good representation of the scale and scope of the post’s front wall and will be constructing the façade as part of the exhibit.  Throughout its use as a trading post the house was often visited by Seminole Tribal Members trading hides and crafts for things such as flour, sewing machines, and guns.  Many Tribal Members would camp for weeks next to the home and Mrs. Ivy Stranahan, who was a school teacher by trade, would teach the children to read and write.  The Stranahans eventually built shelters next to the house near the slough for the Seminoles to use when they would come to trade.  On the porch of our reproduction we will display items such as hides and fabric, and postcards of Tribal Members using the very waterways they would have used to make the trip to Stranahan from their camps in the Everglades. 

            In future posts I will chronicle the installation of the façade and include other interesting nuances of the build.  I have included here the picture from which I have developed the plans for the façade.  I have taken some license to make the trading post more comfortable for our visitors.  The scale will be slightly larger because I have based the scale off Frank being a modern average of six feet tall, where in reality he was likely slightly shorter.  We will also be making the building off white with green signage.  After talking with the staff at the Stranahan house we believe that the current color has not changed and there is no record of a change.  There is a mural downtown that was painted in the last 20 years or so and it shows the original post with red signage but it is generally agreed that that is a product of artistic license and baring any new developments in the researching of the post our signage will stay green.  You can see the photo we are working from accompanying this blog.

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Author: Greg Palumbo

Hi, my name is Greg Palumbo and I am the Exhibits Manager at the Seminole Tribe of Florida's Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki-Museum.

3 thoughts on “Building a Trading Post, in this Economy?”

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