From empty tracts of land and no property taxes to a nearly fully-developed island supported by a tax base, Wilton Manors has come a long way in 75 years.

They’re marking the occasion over the next few weeks.

On April 28 at Hagen Park, the city hosted a look back at the city’s history and growth. A meticulously created timeline was presented to the crowd. While Wilton Manors officially became a city in 1947 (primarily to avoid being annexed by Fort Lauderdale), its role in South Florida’s evolution stretches back much farther. What is now within city limits used to be a rail depot and land for sale at a very reasonable cost.

Adrienne Foland is Vice President of Wilton Manors Historical Society, and led the group down the timeline.

“We began with the Native Americans,” she said after the presentation, “We do have a history of the rivers passing through here and using this as a transition point. Then all pioneers that came here, the early founders of Wilton Manors and how much they were involved in our community, donating buildings, donating land.”

A Message From the Past & A Message For the Future

One of the key activities was a focus on time capsules. During the city’s 50th anniversary in 1997, leaders created a time capsule with documents of the time and letters from leaders. No one could have known that the city was on the precipice of tremendous growth.

There was no Stonewall Festival yet. In fact, the main parade in 1997 was a 50th-anniversary celebration. Alibi was about the only game in town for the LGBT. Former Wilton Manors Mayor John Fiore has seen the changes firsthand.

“When I was elected mayor in 2000, it made world news,” he said. “I knew if I could get Alibi, once we got that it just started snowballing. It’s just beyond what I thought. I never thought it would be like that.”

Now the city is collecting items for residents in 2047 to discover and continue the celebration. Wilton Manors will hold its 29th Annual Island City Canoe Race and Birthday Bash on Saturday, May 21.


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