Fort Lauderdale Coca-Cola factory in 1939 is being restored


FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida – The Coca-Cola bottling plant of the late 1930s has long ceased to be a source of pride for Fort Lauderdale. It symbolized how big and important the city was to attract one, bringing with it jobs and a boost to the economy. And the factory’s huge display cases allow families to watch workers bottling soft drinks.

Now Broward County is on track with restoring this old landmark – at 644 S. Andrews Ave., located just south of a Publix supermarket – to its former glory in the city’s downtown core. . At least from the outside, it will start to look what it looked like over 80 years ago with dozens of replica windows and the same paint color scheme.

“A lot of people are delighted to see it finally come to life,” said architect Merrill Romanik. “The Coca-Cola brand image is rooted in our culture. When they brought this bottling plant to downtown Fort Lauderdale, it had a big impact on the community.

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Rick Ferrer, the county’s historic preservation officer, said building the plant “was seen as a big deal for the city because it meant an economic recovery during the Depression; only the big cities have Coca-Cola factories.

When the Chamber of Commerce publicly bragged about Fort Lauderdale’s best job providers in July 1940, the company was on the list, with a payroll of $ 20,000 a year.

Coca-Cola remained in the headlines for just about any update: In 1941, the Fort Lauderdale News detailed how the wife of a traffic jam executive came by train from Chicago with two babies, a nurse and 17 pieces of luggage to stay in their winter home in Idlewyld for the season.

The company has bottled soda for decades in its two-story building with a belfry on the third floor that some experts say did not have a bell. In 1976, Coca-Cola moved to Pembroke Park and in 1978 the nearly 2-acre site was sold to a cable company. The interior was emptied and the new owners renovated the exterior by removing the huge windows.

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The county, which owns the old factory building, kicked off a $ 3.1 million construction project in October, and it is expected to be completed next summer.

The interior is a shell; Broward County officials said it has not yet been decided what will be inside, although office space is most likely expected.

Romanik said the reconstruction includes a new roof with barrel tiles intended to replicate the original. The same goes for three large bay windows.

“This is where the kids could look through the windows (to see the workers) pour syrup into the bottles and make Coke,” she said. “These large bay windows are coming back. We work with a window company and bring them back. “

There are also 36 wrought iron steel windows that are being restored, she said.

The building will revert to off-white, with golden yellow as an accent.

This building was not the city’s first bottling plant.

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The first opened in 1914 in a one-story building southwest of First Avenue and southwest of Sixth Street, with its exact address unknown, according to county staff. Among his first clients were the Seminole Indians.

“Purchasing and consumption reportedly shifted to construction workers and real estate brokers during the 1920s, when real estate transactions, development and construction grew exponentially,” Ferrer said.

But the factory was built new and moved because the business was booming.

A local headline blasted it “would move to larger neighborhoods to meet demand” after sales were reported to have increased ninefold. The factory operated “day and night” and on Sundays to make 900 cases a day, but the demand for Coca-Cola was much greater. The new plant along Andrews Avenue was expected to produce 1,000 cases per 8-hour shift, the newspaper said.

There were already bottling plants in Homestead, Palm Beach and Miami, and the opening in 1939 took place “with great fanfare and a street festival,” according to Ferrer.

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Ariadna Musarra, director of the county’s construction management division, said the architects are relying on plans for bottling plants at her sister facility in Ocala, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is now privately owned.

But not everything will be restored.

The name of the bottling company, for example, will not be repeated on the building as it is a registered trademark and owned by Coca-Cola. No company spokesperson could be reached for comment.

Historical experts say it’s a relief to know that some preservation is underway.

“Returning things to their historical aspect gives the city more character,” said Ellery Andrews, associate director of History Fort Lauderdale. “It makes you realize what we once were, how we grew up. … There is so much history.

Phil Mooney was a historian and archivist for The Coca-Cola Company for 36 years. He is now retired and still lives in Georgia. He said the “strength of the business” is that the bottling plants were run by local people “who knew the community” and joined the Rotary clubs and chambers by design.

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He said there were around 1,200 bottling plants across the country in the late 1920s and 1930s and floor-to-ceiling windows were a staple: “You wanted the community to see what was going on, to see the manufacturing process, get a feel for the quality and purity. There was no hiding the process, they wanted you to see it.

He said there were usually three models of bottling plants, a small, medium and large version and often made out of bricks. Coca-Cola factory! “”

“It’s fantastic,” Mooney said of the restoration efforts. “It takes us back to a simpler time in life reflecting a time in community. It’s a good look at the story.


Editor-in-chief Brittany Wallman contributed to this report.

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