The 90th anniversary of the Wray Home Celebrated

Foundation President Stan Wood, Mayor Judy Paul and Davie Councilmember Michelle Whitman

The 90th anniversary of the Wray Home Celebrated with an Historic Marker Unveiling

On Sunday November 26, 2023, The Wray Home Museum at Flamingo Gardens celebrated its 90th Anniversary year with the unveiling of an historic marker as part of the Florida Historical Marker Program which “recognizes historic resources, persons and events that are significant in the areas of architecture, archaeology, Florida history and traditional culture by promoting the placing of historic markers and plaques at sites of historical and visual interest to visitors.” The Wray Home Museum is honored to have been selected to be a part of this program.

Sunday’s event featured historic cars, costumed entertainers and guides, Dixieland jazz, and lunch specials based on historic recipes that were served by Floyd and Jane Wray at their well-known barbeque gatherings.  In addition, we opened a retrospective of 90 years of the Wrays and Wray Home in the Gallery Area inside the museum.

At noon the marker was unveiled by special guests, Stan Wood, President of the Floyd L. Wray Memorial Foundation and Davie Town Mayor, Judy Paul. Other notable guests included Davie Councilmember, Michelle Whitman and Flamingo Gardens Board Members, Jan Amador, Carol Holdren, and Eric Veitenheimer.

In addition to the other festivities there was a Haiku contest in honor of Jane Wray’s role as a poet, musician and supporter of art and the preservation of nature. Below is our award-winning Haiku and the three runners-up. A special thank you to all who participated and to our judges.

Haiku Contest

Winner – Pam Steele

Hues of perfection

Champion trees reach skyward

Paradise preserved

Three Runners Up

Laura Wyatt

Share this beauty spot

Dreams are never forgotten

All are welcome here

Francean Fanny

What a lovely day

Celebrating the Wray Home

Such a joy to do

Lauren Baldwin

A field of nature

a home across the clearing

enjoy the gardens

10 Things to Know About the Wrays and the Wray Home Museum

Flamingo Gardens was originally founded as Flamingo Groves, a citrus orchard, by Floyd L. and Jane Wray. The Wrays came to Florida in 1925 and were deeply intrigued with the horticultural possibilities of the subtropical locale. They purchased land around and including Long Key in the Everglades, beginning what was to become one of the first botanical gardens and tourist attractions in South Florida. Here are ten facts you should know about the Wrays and their residence that is now the Wray Home Museum:

  1. The Wrays built the Wray Home in 1933 as a weekend home and used it for relaxing and conducting business and to entertain business associates, civic groups, and friends. 
Early photo of the Wray Home circa 1930s.

2. The Wray home is the oldest residence in Broward County west of University Drive.

3. Floyd and Jane Wray were significant to the growth and development of Broward County and the Broward County citrus industry. Floyd was instrumental in the establishment of Port Everglades.

Floyd and Jane Wray at the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce

4. Floyd purchased 320 acres of land at less than $5.00 an acre and Flamingo Groves was incorporated in January of 1927. The first orange tree was planted on February 22, 1927.

Floyd L. Wray (right) plants the first tree at Flamingo Groves

5. 5-acre parcels of land planted with 66 trees to an acre were sold to investors for about $3750. At its height Flamingo Groves had 2,000 acres of citrus groves, growing many types of citrus, and five shipping locations with stores throughout Broward County.  

Investors in Flamingo Groves circa 1930s

6. The Botanical collection was started in 1928 with rare tropical plants and trees from around the world, created with specimens provided at no cost by a Dept. of Agriculture program until the 1940s.

Cluster Fig planted in the 1930s through a U.S. Department of Agriculture Program.

7. In 1928 the Flamingo Tangelo was developed at Flamingo Grooves. Jane wrote a poem to the Flamingo Tangelo that hangs on the wall in the Wray Home.

8.The house was converted into a history museum in 1975 and in 1991 the interior of the building was restored to depict a typical South Florida country home of the 1930s to 1950s.

Wray Home Museum circa 1990s

9. The house has been added to three times. The most recent addition was completed in the early 1950s when they added air conditioning.

10. The Wrays had no children, but Jane’s nephew helped run the groves and raised his children on the property. Jane’s grandnephew is still involved with Flamingo Gardens and currently resides on the property.

Eye-witness Account of the Great Hurricane of 1926

The Great Hurricane of 1926
with a riveting eye-witness
account and photos from the
 Flamingo Gardens Archives
Hurricanes are always in the news this time of year,
reminding us of Hurricane Andrew’s anniversary and the need to be
prepared.  There is a long history of hurricanes
in South Florida, but the Great Hurricane of 1926 stands out from all others.
The disastrous Hurricane of 1926 had a profound effect on South
Florida and its residents, including Flamingo Gardens’ founders, Floyd L. and Jane Wray.

Hollywood, Florida, September 20, 1926

The Wrays were living in Florida
for less than a year.  He was selling
real estate in Hollywood.  They weathered
the storm with friend D.L. Gregory who wrote the riveting eye-witness account
that follows.  It describes what they
were doing before, their efforts to fight the storm, and the aftermath. When the
storm subsided, there were 30 sleeping in the house including neighbors whose
homes were destroyed.  

As bad as it was, up north the destruction was greatly
exaggerated.  The New York Times reported
a thousand dead and “scores of towns razed or flooded.”  A Philadelphia newspaper ran a headline:
“Southeastern Florida Wiped Out.”  

Wray knew there would be no real estate
business for a long time to come. The storm led him to a new career in citrus.  By 1927, he had established Flamingo
Groves, which was to become the Flamingo Gardens we cherish today.

The Hurricane
On September 18, 1926, 25 years before they started naming
hurricanes, the Great Hurricane roared through.  

Two months earlier, in July, a hurricane had passed out at sea.  There was some rain, wind squalls, and high
waves that reached the boardwalk.  Newcomers, like the Wrays, were left
unprepared for what was to come, thinking that hurricanes were not so bad, and
maybe even a bit exciting. 

Ships first reported the big storm on September 11.  It went north of Puerto Rico, so there was little solid
information.  Storm warnings came from Washington,
DC in those days and were passed on to field offices like Miami.  As of the morning of September 17, less than
24 hours before the 60-mile-wide storm made landfall, there was no warning
issued.   At noon, Miami was authorized to post storm
warnings (one step below hurricane, or winds of 48 to 55 knots).  The first serious warnings did not come until the
barometer began to drop rapidly around 11 PM the night of September 17.
Early the next morning, official weather bureau records “…
recorded a maximum velocity of 128 miles per hours from the east or southeast
at 7:30 a.m. The extreme velocity cannot be
from the records, but it was probably between 140 and 150
miles per hour.  The anemometer blew away
at 8:12 a.m. at which time it was recording
120 miles per hour.”
The storm devastated the Miami/Broward area.  Streets remained flooded for more than a week
after in many places.  On October 9, the
Red Cross reported that 372 died in the storm and over 6,000 were injured (one
account said more than 800 were never accounted
for).  Many
who were unaware of the danger went outside to look around as the eye passed
and were killed when the winds
.  Property damage was the
worst in U.S. history, estimated at $105 million at the time, which would be more
than $164 billion in today’s dollars.  In
comparison, Hurricane Andrew’s estimated damage was about $25 billion, but with better forecasting, instant
communications, and better building codes, the death toll was 56. The 1926
hurricane traveled north a bit, then turned toward
Lake Okeechobee, where the dikes were
, and hundreds of people drowned leading to advances in flood control.The Red Cross reported 150 corpses, but said many bodies were never found, and estimated the death toll was as high as 300. The storm moved on to the Gulf, then
came ashore again near Pensacola, and finally
in a weakened state traveled to Mississippi and Louisiana.  Because of the widespread destruction, Miami
appointed a chief building inspector who created and enforced the first
building code in the United States, which was over time put into effect in more
than 5,000 U.S. cities.  
Eye-witness Account

A transcript of the letter above, written by D.L. Gregory soon
after the storm, follows.  He was with
the Wrays during the storm.  (Some corrections
were made for clarity.  Most corrections are
to punctuation.  Even after many days had
passed, his exhaustion and stress were evident. 
The letter is an outpouring of what he remembered.  In the entire letter, there were only a few periods
to end sentences — just thought after thought with commas sometimes between

D. L. GREGORY                                          By-the-Sea                                                   F. L. WRAY
                                                                                                             Hollywood, Fla.
                                                                                                                     October 5, 1926

Dear Everybody:-
This is really
the first time I have had time to write a letter, but I guess when you see some
of the Pathe News Pictures you will know that we had our troubles. I will try
to tell you a little about it if you will be willing to read a typewritten letter, for it goes so much faster,
and I don’t have much time.
Friday, September 17, to start with, the College that I was affiliated with gave a concert of the
faculty only, with a reception after. 
The concert was given in the
Methodist Church.  About four o’clock
that afternoon, the paper came out with an announcement in one-inch type for
one hundred men on the waterfront at once to fill sand bags and re-enforce all
the buildings.  These men were extra as
the city had all of their men working there all day Friday, also that all
people should be off of the street by midnight.  On account of
the storm we had had a few months ago, no one felt that this storm would amount
to much, so we gave our concert to a crowded house, and as the program was a
good one, there were so many encores that
everyone stayed until nearly twelve o’clock. From nine-thirty on, we didn’t say
anything, but two men stood at the front doors and held them shut, and also the
doors into the Sunday School rooms, but we felt the church was secure.
At twelve o’clock  we went to the beach, and while the wind was
blowing terribly. It was from the north, and we all felt that there would be no
damage by water for the ocean was quite rough but nothing to worry about, so
the workers along the waterfront stopped work about twelve-thirty but stayed
down there.
  We came home and went to
bed, but the wind blew and howled, so it was hard to sleep, but Mrs. Wray went
to sleep and slept until we called her at five-thirty.
This first storm kept up until about four o’clock when it seemed to die down, and we thought it had passed
without doing any harm. In just a few minutes, the wind started to blow again,
this time straight from the east.  There
had been an Essex stalled in front of our house in the storm, and I got up to
see whether there was anyone in the car,
but the wind was so strong that I couldn’t go out into it, but when another car
passed saw that there was no one in it. The wind blew so hard that it would
make the lights go on and off in this car, so I called Floyd and as I did one
of the iron rods on the awning gave way and started to rip a hole in the front
screen.  He got up, and I held the flashlight for him as our light went out in the
first storm.  We felt so badly about the
small hole in the screen and got the
awning fixed and then had to move all the porch furniture into the living room.
Then the other rod broke, and when Floyd reached out to the screen, the wind
pulled him, screen, rod, and all, out. I grabbed him around the knees, and he
got straightened, but the awning went, then the other one. Then the rain, which
had been coming down in torrents, started down the chimney, and I started to
mop. The tile was flying everywhere, and
we looked out the window and saw the Essex go down the street. I think the
fastest it will ever run.  By that time,
it started to get light so we could see better, and one of us held our front
door shut all the time. We would see a half of a house go down the street then
a whole garage.  Twice we saw garages lifted
completely off of cars, and the cars standing out in the open. The wind caused
a short in a car about a block away, and the horn blew for two hours until the
batteries ran down.
All this time, I was wiping water, and taking up rugs, and trying to fasten windows more
securely, and Floyd was holding the front door shut.  About five-thirty, something hit the back
window in the bedroom, and the screen went there, and as we were trying to
figure what to do, we saw Betty and her mother huddled in the back garage
apartment, their roof had blown off, and they were there alone. The wind was so
strong that Floyd could not stand up to go after them, so we motioned for them
to stay there until he could make it to them. About six-thirty, Floyd made it
over to them.  Then they couldn’t get
back as the tiling and roofs were flying in every direction, and they stood the
chance of being hit.  They were there for
about one-half hour. When the storm
seemed to subside, and by carrying Betty, then going back for Mrs. Bowen, they
made it here.
There was a slight lull when the wind turned about seven in the
morning, and this time came southeast. 
The rain stopped, and in its place came salt water in sheets just as if
it were waves.  Then is when we started
to work in earnest, for when a sheet of this water came, we couldn’t see the
house next door, with the result that the water rose about ten inches in twenty
minutes, and after each gust, when we
could see, something would be gone.  The
water came up onto our front porch, so we all decided to go to the garage.  We went there,
but the roof had gone. 
First, I must tell you that Floyd tried it first and was blown
about three feet out of his course on the way. He took one [step] at a time, and by both bracing, we made it.  By the way, Rub thought it was a circus. The
garage floor was full, and the car was drenched
as the water was simply flowing in from the apartment above. Well, we looked like drowned rats.  Floyd had on his heavy hunting boots, and I
made him take them off. The water came in on us,
but we didn’t say a word.  All at once,
the water started to recede as rapidly as it came, and the rain started.  You will never know the relief to all when we
could taste the fresh water in the place
of salt. The wind went down also, and about ten o’clock, Floyd started
First, the people on the corner from us came all wet.  Their roof had gone. Next Floyd went to
Lamonaca, and they were all but crazy. 
Their roof had gone, and they were
in one corner, with their two babies.  They came over to our house, and I got out
the old stern heat, which we had gotten back in the good old days in Miami.
When the crowd was too great then, we had to cook with it once in a while.  I started to make coffee, and the more I made, the more people Floyd sent in. Where they
came from, and where they went, is more than I will ever tell you.  One man had been in an apartment with wife
and five children, when the whole thing went, leaving them not high and dry,
but low and wet, under a table with a mattress to protect them. Next Floyd went
to a grocery that had blown down and salvaged as much as possible.  In less than a half-hour after the storm, our
house, which seemed to be the only dry spot, because
the roof held and no water came in, was crowded.
At twelve o’clock, Mrs. Bowen and I went over to the school about
two blocks away and helped there as best
we could.  They were bringing in the
wounded by the car full. Some people had been
away from their families, and I never want to see anything like it
again, legs broken, one man with a broken
back, faces and arms torn, and the people so afraid it was awful. There was no
water to do anything with, and outside you had to pick your way around in the
water, for the streets were covered with
wires, boards, roofs and everything you could think of.  We housed thirty the
first night, six in a bed and the rest on the floor, and glad to get the floor
where it was dry.
I think regardless of what is said to the contrary, Dania got it
the worst.  Everything is demolished
there, except the bank and the Dania Beach Hotel, to such an extent that it
will have to be rebuilt. So many people were drowned there
and at Davie. I am going to cite two cases, which are parallel to possibly
hundreds of others. One woman was taken off of a
.  She had gone out to
take care of a maternity case on this houseboat
and had taken her nine-year-old son with
her. The night of the storm the baby was born,
and died from exposure also in the midst of the storm. The mother died. There
was a man on the boat about seventy, and the boat broke away from its holding,
and they drifted.
October 9, 1926
Was called down to the Relief Room and this is the first
opportunity I have had to write since.
Will start where I left off.
These people drifted all day Saturday, and all night people tried
to swim to them, but it was impossible, and all of the other boats were either
sunk or up on dry land having been thrown there by the high water and the wind. When these people were finally rescued, they were sure in awful
Another woman and her son were adrift on a barn door from Saturday
morning about five o’clock until Sunday afternoon.  Their house had blown down and a beam, which
fell, hit her husband in the head and knocked him unconscious.  The woman and her son, nine years old,
managed to get him on the barn door. As the water came up so high, they could
not stand up, and they floated tied to this door.  The man died about an hour after they got on
the door, and they were not found for
over twenty-four hours after this.  The
woman was sure brave, for they found them floating out into the Everglades, and
when they took them off of the door, she had her husband taken to an
undertaking room, and they buried him at
once. Then she said that she would have to have some attention, and it was found that she was badly injured, but she
has never uttered one complaint.
There were five babies born in the temporary hospitals the first
night after the storm, and there has been about three a day ever since. All of
them have been good babies.  We have had
the pleasure of furnishing several of them with all kinds of clothing, as there
was only one woman who was able to save any of her baby things.
The way everyone worked will
never be forgotten. There was lots to be
done, and as everyone was in the same fix, all water soaked and nothing dry to
put on. The Red Cross was on the job as soon as it was possible to be on the
job, and the first thing they took care of was food, and then the distribution
of clothes.  Rich and poor alike had to
be clothed. I loaned and borrowed until I
had to stop or go like Eve myself.  Food
was furnished by requisition for almost two weeks, also coal, oil, and stoves
and water. 
We had a nice clean time washing dishes.  All the water was salt water and dirty. We
managed to catch a tub full when it rained, but to wash dishes for thirty, it
didn’t last long. There was no water for the bathrooms, and you can imagine how
hard that was.  We just locked our
bathroom door and wouldn’t let anyone in it. 
The hard part was that there was no place else to go, but at that,
we were better off than the places that were
for hospitals and sleeping. 
The Hollywood Beach Hotel was thrown open for refugees, but there was no
water, no lights, and wet beds. The hotel
stood the storm fine, that is above the first floor, but the windows were
broken out, and everything was soaked.
The people were allowed a glass of water three times a day, and the only way
that they could wash was to get salt water
out of the ocean, and they had to get that themselves.  You can imagine, with one dress, and that wet
and dirty, how they looked. And that went on for almost two weeks. 
In fact, the water is not down at the hotel yet, but it is closed. 
In the front of the hotel along the boardwalk
where there was so much damage done by high water and wind, just to show you the force of it, there was a drug store that
had just opened, and they had installed a fountain that weighed two tons.  It was moved to the back of the store a
distance of twelve feet, the partitions all along the hotel front that se
(The letter ended
abruptly and was never finished.)
Hurricane Photos from the 
Flamingo Groves/Flamingo Gardens Archives
Methodist Church, Hollywood, FL after the Hurricane

The Wrays and Gregory were at a concert in the Methodist Church when the winds started to pick up.   The concrete block structure sustained
severe damage. Some accounts say it was totally destroyed.

Homeseekers Beach Office

For a time, Wray sold real estate in Hollywood-by-the-Sea for Homeseekers. 

The Red Cross
The Red Cross arrived as soon as possible after the storm and raised funds throughout the country for the relief effort. In a Chicago Daily Tribune article published on September 23, they estimated 50,000 homeless and more than 4,000 injured and needing aid.
On West Dixie in Hollywood

Major flooding remained in some areas of South Florida for more than a week, and hundreds drowned when the dike collapsed at Lake Okeechobee. In response, the State Legislature created the Okeechobee
Flood Control District. President-elect Hoover visited and authorized cooperation with the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to create a comprehensive long-term plan for flood control in South Florida.

House in Ranches

Wood homes were reduced to rubble throughout South Florida.  The storm led to creation of the first building codes.

Train Station 1929
The concrete block structure was damaged, but the trains ran. The first aid to arrive was a relief
train to Miami guarded by state militia that brought medical staff, drugs, water, and other supplies as soon as the storm passed.   
Despite it all, in the face of adversity, life goes on, as this photo attests.  A woman out with her children getting some fresh air, one riding a
tricycle, on the sidewalk in front of their damaged, but still standing,

90th Anniversary Celebration

2017 is the
90th Anniversary of Flamingo Groves, the forerunner of Flamingo Gardens. The
founders, Floyd L. and Jane Wray, moved to Florida in 1925.  They were thrilled with their new home and the beauty of South Florida.  He had a good job selling property in Hollywood-by-the-Sea.

Then came 1926.  It was not a good year for South Florida or the Wrays. The real estate boom was
ending, and on September 19, a devastating
hurricane made landfall.

1926 HurricaneYou can only
imagine how the Wrays felt after the storm subsided.  They were grateful they fared the storm better than most. But, with the real estate business
gone, Floyd knew he had to pick himself up and consider his options. He decided
on a venture that would take him in a whole new direction —
citrus. He believed he could make a go of it if he bought inexpensive land in the drained Everglades and grew a new
variety of summer oranges, and he was right.
By the end of 1926, the new plan was in motion. Mittie Meyers Chaplin writing about
her pioneer family noted they
sold three hundred and twenty acres of Everglade land six miles west of Davie and
somewhat higher than sea level than elsewhere to a young man. That
young man was Floyd L. Wray.
Citrus IndustryFlamingo
Groves was incorporated on January 2, 1927. The first bare-root Lu Gim Gong summer-ripening orange tree was
planted in the drained Everglades on February 22.  Forty acres were
planted that first year.
exotic botanical gardens were created with the
help of the Department of Agriculture, which provided
plants and seeds from around the world. 
A flamingo pond was added and peacocks roamed the grounds.  Flamingo Groves became a South Florida show place. Other growers began to plant citrus until
western Davie was almost a continuous citrus grove.

Broward County FL
Wray built retail outlets for his fruit and other citrus-related items, and the first modern packing and shipping plant in Broward County.  He was one of the first elected commissioners that turned Bay Mable Harbor into Port Everglades, a world-class shipping and cruise facility, in only five years.  He
continued to expand the groves and included virtually every variety of
citrus and other fruit trees suited to the climate.  Flamingo Groves covered nearly 2,000
acres at its peak. 
Florida AttractionsAlthough all
the other groves eventually made way to development, Jane Wray had the foresight to create a
foundation to preserve the best 60 acres. Today, visitors from the state, country, and all around the world enjoy the botanical gardens and native wildlife exhibits. The historic Wray Home Museum shares Floyd and Jane’s history and their legacy.    

It all began with that one tree planted so many years ago. Join
us in celebrating the 90th Anniversary at Flamingo Gardens this

More History
The First Tree Was Planted in 1927
Flamingo Groves/Flamingo Gardens: Always a great place to party!
Flamingo Gardens a Spectacular Setting with an Eventful Past


The First Tree Was Planted in 1927

On February 22, 1927, Floyd L. Wray proudly planted the first tree at Flamingo Groves.

When Wray first came to Florida, he sold real estate for Homeseekers, one of Joseph W. Young’s companies.  He noticed the shortage of oranges during the summer and the high prices.  He saw the late summer-maturing Lue Gim Gong Valencia oranges, developed by a botanist in central Florida, as a new opportunity.  The fruit could be harvested when the other varieties were out of season.

He bought 320 acres inexpensively in the drained Everglades west of Davie from Frank and Mittie Chaplin.  Flamingo Groves was incorporated in January of 1927.  Floyd L. Wray was President, Frank Stirling Vice President, and Jane Wray was Secretary-Treasurer.  With the help of Frank Stirling, a member of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Florida State Plant Board, a bare field soon became citrus as far as the eye could see. 
Not a pretty picture. This is what the plowed land surrounding the oak hammock looked like in 1927.  The area was already drained by canals built in 1906 by Florida Governor Napoleon Bonaparte Broward.  The soil was rich and, with time, a lush grove of citrus would replace the bare landscape.

The first trees were planted in tight rows and would be replanted later. 

Young 5-6 foot trees are pruned by 1/3 and then dug up. The soil is washed off the roots again.  The trees are packed in a bundle and sent to the banting crew.

The banting crew replanted the trees over 40 acres with plenty of room to grow to maturity.  Robert Wood, shows a young tree in the planted grove.


Frank Stirling and Robert Wood stand behind a small healthy, growing tree. 


It takes years for the trees to mature and bear fruit.

As the first trees grew, others were started and replanted.  More varieties of citrus were included in the expanding grove.

To raise funds during the depression, Wray offered 5-acre parcels for sale with a five-year contract.  Flamingo Groves would care for the trees.  After five years, buyers had the option to return the land at a previously specified price or receive the profits for sale of the fruit. 

By 1936, 470 acres were planted with a variety of citrus and fruit trees such as papaya.  At its height, Flamingo Groves covered 2,000 acres, about three-square miles, and grew almost 80 varieties of citrus.

Today, unfortunately, there are few citrus trees left anywhere in Broward County, due to hurricanes, and rapidly spreading diseases like canker and citrus greening.  Flamingo Gardens today has a few citrus trees, but most have been replaced by mangos and other varieties of fruit.

Flamingo Gardens a Spectacular Setting with an Eventful Past

Flamingo Gardens is certainly a beautiful place to visit, but do you know how it came to be? 

The short answer is that Floyd L. and Jane Wray bought 320 acres in the Everglades for just under $5 an acre in 1927, incorporated as Flamingo Groves, and planted 40 acres of citrus orchard. In 1969, upon Jane Wray’s death, 60 acres of the property was preserved and became Flamingo Gardens.

That is just the beginning of a fascinating history.  

There are so many questions that arise, and each leads to more. Answering those questions, and filling in the details, is the really interesting part of the story. 

It all begins 10,000 to 14,000 years ago, Paleo-indians lived here in South Florida, probably with mammoths and bison.  Cypress swamps and hardwood hammocks appeared about 5,000 years ago.  An archeological dig less than a mile west of Flamingo Gardens on Long Key shows civilization 3,000 years ago.  The Tequesta lived here in the southeast.  When the Spanish explorers came in 1510, they found Seminoles living and growing crops on this land.  As time went on, the Seminoles and Miccosukees agreed to move to areas that were set aside for preservation of the environment and to use as a safe haven in which to maintain their customs and traditions.

The Wrays were newcomers when they moved here from the Midwest.  They bought property in the Everglades from Frank and Mittie Chaplin and started a citrus grove.  It’s easy to see in that photo that there wasn’t much here when the first tree was planted on February 22, 1927.  Jane said, “There was no road within four miles.  Roads had to be built, ditches dug, drainage provided.  There was no water, electricity, telephones.  The only toilets were outdoors.  There was no Road 84.  What a thrill to sink our first plow; to plant our first tree!”  That first year, they planted 40 acres of summer oranges.

In 1928, Wray began planting the botanical garden with exotic plants and seeds provided by the government “so that our guests might realize the beauties of this tropical section of South Florida and to further emphasize the wonderful climate.”

Construction began on Flamingo Road in 1929.  By the early 1930s, there were oranges to sell and ship.  As the first elected Chairman of Port Everglades, Wray acquired federal funds to widen the entrance and deepen the basin at the port to allow large freighters and cruise ships to dock at Fort Lauderdale instead of Miami for the first time, and allow convenient shipping of fruit to the north.
Floyd and Jane lived in Hollywood, but they needed a place on the grounds for business and entertaining.  Wray Home was erected in 1933, beautifully situated on one of the high points of the majestic oak hammock.
The gardens at Flamingo Groves were open to visitors 12 months a year.  An early newspaper ad read, “A Cordial Invitation is Extended to Guests and Citizens of Fort Lauderdale to visit Flamingo Groves, Southern Florida’s Newest and Largest Orange Grove Development.”  There was a small sightseeing tram ride with a talk about citrus, the groves, and the Everglades, a pond with 12 flamingos, free-roaming peafowl, the prized botanical collection, and of course, a fruit stand.
Citrus IndustryDue to the increase of groves in the whole area, Wray built the first modern citrus packing and shipping plant on Federal Highway in 1934.  (The photo to the left shows the groves that year.)  By 1939, Wray’s original 40-acre grove had grown to more than 200 acres.  The Flamingo Groves Catalog of 1951 listed 83 different varieties of citrus for sale.  At its peak, Flamingo Groves eventually covered over 2,000 acres (about 3 square miles).
Mr. Wray passed away in 1959; Mrs. Wray in 1969.  Her will endowed the Floyd L. Wray Memorial Foundation to honor her husband and preserve 60-acres, including the beautiful botanical gardens, to share with the public.  It’s greater purpose was to teach awareness of the beauty and bounty of the Everglades.  
Today Flamingo Gardens is an enduring gift from the Wrays, and a living museum of Florida’s past, a refuge to endangered and injured wildlife, as well as a haven for native and migrating species.  Schoolchildren of all ages arrive daily during the week on field trips, and guests visit from around the world to enjoy the legacy left them by the Wrays and to learn more about the Everglades, environment, animals and history of the area.  

As the end of the year approaches, please keep in mind that donations to help Flamingo Gardens maintain that legacy are tax-deductible.  And, visit the website for more general information. 
There’s so much more to the story, with so many interesting details and tidbits to share as the saga unfolds, so be sure to check back for next month’s blog.
By the way, if you have old photos of Flamingo Gardens or Flamingo Groves in digital form to share, please email them to [email protected] along with the dates and your recollections.  Call the Flamingo Gardens at 954-473-2955 if you have photos that you can bring to be scanned.  We would love to add them to our archives.