NAUTICAL LANDMARK SINCE 1948
In 1948, the site of the marina was a closed, highly secret research station for submarine torpedoes of World War II. It was so far "out of town" that the police pistol firing range was on the same dirt road, SE 15th Street, at what is now Cordova Road. Lauderdale Harbors and many of the other undeveloped islands were simply tree covered and sometimes swampy leftovers from the great 1926 Florida real estate crash.
Cox, making a permanent move from New York to Fort Lauderdale, arrived in Port Everglades in 1946 on a deep draft motor sailer. He was astonished to find that there was no place where the water was deep enough to dock his 9' draft boat, the only commercial dockage being a small obsolete marina on the causeway which is now the Las Olas bridge connection to the beach. Huss Marina was on its last legs, had a shallow depth of water, red-tagged condemned wiring, and a single metal shower stall installed, it is said, by one of the boat owners for the price of a bottle of good whiskey.
The Navy torpedo research station was the only spot with enough depth to accommodate Cox’s vessel, but could not be used because the government had not relinquished its prewar lease on the property. Cox, however, seeking not only a dock but recognizing that the miles of empty Fort Lauderdale waterways would some day be lined with homes and boats, all of which would have to pass the torpedo station on their way to the ocean or up and down the Intracoastal Waterway, negotiated with the owners of the land and in 1948 opened Lauderdale Marina as a fueling station.
"How well I remember that day we opened," said Cox, “We sold 48 gallons of gas to a customer who not only filled his small boat’s tank but also a bunch of 5 gallon cans. Asked why he filled the cans, too, the customer said he was tired of carrying fuel from a highway gas station and, from the looks of the marinas early dock, wasn’t sure how long we would be in business.”
From the marina site there was no evidence of the existence of the City of Fort Lauderdale, no buildings on the horizon, no building at all in what is now Harbor Beach and of course no 17th Street Causeway Bridge. Cruising boats often stopped to ask "how far is Fort Lauderdale", and found it hard to believe that they could fill their water tanks with city water via a small pipe about a half mile long installed by the Navy.
Current yachtsmen find it hard to believe that the many islands and peninsulas that make up the city were not built for boats. The canals were dredged to provide enough fill to make the swampy east side of Fort Lauderdale into saleable real estate. To prove this to non-believers who question Cox’s sanity, he would show them aerial photographs showing low bridges built across the ends of the canals to provide for automobile circulation from one island to the next.
Lauderdale Marina has grown with the city. Now one of the major fuel docks on the Intracoastal Waterway, the marina provides dockage, boat sales, parts and repair services, and in its 59th year took over operation of the well known restaurant on the property, 15th Street Fisheries, which has been a landmark eatery on the waterway since 1978.
Cox, an engineer by training, fascinated by the new boat building material called fiberglass, opened the first sales agency for such boats in the State of Florida in 1949. Today they hold a coveted “Marine Industry 5-Star Dealer” certification for one of the country's most famous brands of boats, Boston Whaler.
Nowadays, the operation of the marina complex is guided by three generations, all in the Cox Family. The president of Lauderdale Marina is Cox’s grandson, Scott Clark. Grandson Will Clark oversees the fuel dock and boat slips. Cox's grandson, Kelly Drum, is president of 15th Street Fisheries, and Cox's son-in-law, Ted Drum, is president of the The Shipyard, a family holding company which owns the real estate.
The fuel dock at Lauderdale Marina continues to thrive today and provides much needed services to the South Florida boating community. In 2016, the marina installed a high resolution dock cam presenting live views of the marina's docks, 17th Street Bridge and the Intracoastal Waterway. The cam has become one of the most popular on the entire EarthCam network. Lauderdale Marina is indeed a landmark along the Intracoastal Waterway, just minutes from the inlet to the Atlantic Ocean at Port Everglades.