Thursday, June 23, 2011

Discovering Tamarac’s History

(Originally published on June 22, 2011)
By: Barbara Tarnove, President, Tamarac Historical Society

I can’t count how many times I’ve been asked, or heard the question, “Why does Tamarac have a Historical Society?” Perhaps you wondered this yourself. If you allow me just a few moments of your time, hopefully I can answer your curiosity.

As one of the founding members of the Tamarac Historical Society I’ve always had an interest in history. I can explain that interest very simply: the PAST causes the PRESENT and the FUTURE.

Have you ever wondered why our fair city attracted so many retired residents? Or, what was the attraction way back in 1963 when our City’s founding father, Ken Behring, had a vision for a new development geared toward active retirees? What did he aim to provide that no other city offered? Why does our city have such an odd shape? What attracts people to move to Tamarac even today? And, does Behring’s original vision still hold true?

There are so many questions about our City and my goal, along with my fellow Historical Society members is to answer as many as we can… and then some! Our small, but dedicated, group of volunteers has been meeting for almost two years now to make sure we document the answers to as many of these questions as possible. To help us with our goal, we developed a mission: The City of Tamarac’s Historical Society will research, collect, preserve and exhibit the history of Tamarac with goals of enlightening the community about our heritage and passing on an enduring legacy for future generations.

How are we doing? Well, so far so good. Let me give you some insight about how Tamarac developed.

Ken Behring’s idea was to build houses with maintenance-free convenience lifestyle and recreation facilities of a condo combined with the privacy of a single-family home.

In 1962 he bought his first plot of land in what would soon become Tamarac. The first development was very successful and by July 1963 the new City of Tamarac was officially incorporated by the State of Florida. People flocked from near-by cities to be the first to experience this new lifestyle. Word of mouth, and clever advertising, helped spread the word north to friends and family in the northeast and mid-west states. The promise of a life of leisure, social gatherings, golf, well appointed and affordable homes and the promise of a maintenance-free lifestyle – for the low monthly fee of $23.00 – brought people in droves. To accommodate and deliver this dream life, each community of 250 homes included a large recreation center and an oversized pool. No other city had ever offered such a package deal!

The land that Behring bought was generally unsuitable for anything other than grazing land for cattle and a place for locals to ride their motorcycles. Paved roads were rare and canals and lakes were yet to be dredged – but they were all part of Behring’s vision and master plan for his new city.

Tamarac was an instant success! More land was needed to keep up with demand so Behring began buying up as much land as he could and the City grew westward. It was these land acquisitions (which could be a whole article in itself) which created our City’s unusual shape.

Behring’s personal passion for golf was why so many golf facilities were included in his master plan; this further attracted people to the city and played a major role in the idealized way of life he envisioned. His dream lasted for many years, even after he left Tamarac and the new developers continued to build out the city.

There are so many more stories; so much more detail we’ll continue to share as we go forward, in the mean time I hope I have peaked your interest. If you have knowledge to share or memorabilia to donate, please contact us at or call us at 954-597-3523

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Early Tamarac Notables

By: Barbara Tarnove, President, Tamarac Historical Society

Who is responsible for the way things are today? Those that came before us, for sure. What did they do? Did they sit around a table and plan every detail?

Did they think about what it would all mean years from then? Was the future part of the plan? Was it conceived by one and embellished by many? A few visionaries? Or perhaps it started one day and before they knew it the city grew so fast that it all just happened… I wonder. DO YOU WONDER?

The Tamarac Historical Society wonders all the time and that is what keeps us going. We need to know and know we will. Our small group is researching the early days of Tamarac to understand how we got to where we are today. There are some early notables that helped or were part of the shaping of our city.

Ken Behring, for sure, was the founding father. It was his dream to create a “way of life” that would allow residents to enjoy a complete life with recreation facilities and a maintenance free life style. Surrounding himself with the like of the first Mayor, William Morse, whose idea it was to create their own city, Tamarac was on it way to being that “way of life”.

The first residents of Tamarac came to the city with the influences of their former home towns, The Nyce’s from Geneva New York and the Hardy’s from Queens New York. Both husbands were in the banking business, so financially they saw Tamarac as a good buy. Both couples were active in the community, Mr. Nyce taught art classes, and wrote articles for the newspaper about mortgages and Mrs. Nyce was a social reporter. Mrs. Hardy was in charge of building the first library in the clubhouse. As residents began moving into their new homes, groups formed and committee’s sprang up in abundance. One such group formed the Tamarac Lakes Civic Association, led by the president Charles Paster. Paster a graduate of the University of Detroit majoring in Business Administration and Purple Heart recipient, took his civic duties very seriously. He later became a councilman and Vice Mayor of the city of Tamarac. His background certainly influenced his contributions.

As the city grew so did the experiences of its residents. Mr. and Mrs. Cox were the first in the Mainland’s. Their background was from Detroit where Mr. Cox worked for General Motors as an electrician, for over 25 years. With each new section the homes evolved as well. Mainland’s homes boasted solid marble window sills, recessed kitchen ceiling lighting, free wall to wall carpeting, two spacious bedrooms, garbage disposal and concrete driveways.

Tamarac was to have a home for everyone. For the more affluent buyers that the city was attracting, Vista Villa (The Woodlands) was conceived as a private country club community. This community came with a Von Hagge designed golf course and estate like home nestled amidst lush greenery and acre lots.

One of the greatest influences of the social scene was Fred Hoelscher, Mr.Tamarac. Hoelscher and his wife Zetta retired from Missouri where Fred was a chicken farmer in 1962. Fred quickly became the Recreation Director for the Behring Corporation where he promoted “The Tamarac Way of Life”. Fred re-enforced a life where people enjoyed good fellowship and keeping busy doing things together with other residents. He and his wife started a civic organization as each new clubhouse was completed. Fred was responsible for the Tamarac Lakes News Bulletin, a monthly newsletter keeping all the residents informed of the activities and goings on in their new community.

With an optimistic outlook on the growth of Tamarac, Doug Keller was the first City Administrator. Keller brought his experience to Tamarac from Fort Lauderdale where he worked for 12 years. With only 2000 residents when he started, he established the necessary Public Works Department, City Utilities Department, a Department of Parks and Recreation, Department of Streets, Police and Fire Departments and a Division of Transportation. He certainly shaped the early beginning of our City.

Growing out of the Administrators newly formed departments, Ellis De Voe was named police chief. His prior experience came via Lighthouse Point where he was also Chief. De Voe established a fleet of 4 police cars equipped with 2 way radios that would patrol the entire city on a 24 hour basis. He hired the first patrolman , Larry Wark and gave him badge number one. Everyone felt safe seeing the patrol cars that replaced the security guards that previously held the safety duty and thanks to the Behring corporation each car carried a resuscitator as an added precaution.

As cities go, Tamarac was a very young city, being groomed for greatness, led by many experienced, well place individuals who saw a vision and made it a Way of Life.

Be sure to come by City Hall to check out our new display! (Photo above.)