Search This Blog


Monday, November 30, 2009

Nordic Way


Florida has, for a long time, been a favourite holiday destination for Swedes. Many maintain a seasonal home here, while others pipe dream of the Sunshine State as a great place to start a business or to retire in. Many Swedish Americans end up in Florida after they have lived and worked in more northerly states. There have, in fact, been Swedes here since the pioneering days, and many of whom have played a prominent role in the development of the state and are given prominence in the historical annals of Florida.

Swampland Lots
are all that many Swedes got when they bought real estate in Florida. Many bought site unseen with $10 down and payments of $10 a month from Carl Magnuson Jr. whose father from ml in Sweden pioneered real estate in Miami. Junior bought thousands of acres, incorporating them and making himself the mayor and controlling his own town council. He became the subject of many a lawsuit by disgruntled buyers, but always managed to come away clean. And now with rapidly rising land values, some of his quarter or half acre lots, water-logged as they may be, could actually be worth something.

South Beach
in Miami was for many years a run-down slum until developers realized the beauty of the Art Deco buildings. Today it is the place to stay, shop and be entertained in. Ulf Johansson, who came to Florida to sell Swedish log houses and ended up making money renovating houses, was one of the first to see the potential of South Beach. He bought and renovated the beautiful Waldorf Tower’s Hotel (860 Ocean Drive, 1-800-933-Beach) that became “South Beach’s most photographed hotel” and for a long time the most “in” nightclub.

Lars de Jounge
is your quintessential Swedish Floridian. A tall and distinguished retiree with a permanent tan, he lives in Vero Beach where Swedes settled as early as in 1904 and where they organized the Evangelical Mission Covenant Church in 1942. For your Swedish content today you can visit the Wahlstrom Sculpture Garden at the Vero Beach Museum of Art and admire the sculpture “Sunglitter” by Carl Milles.

But Lars de Jounge moved to Vero Beach because he found a property here that came with a landing strip for his Klemm and Tiger Moth planes. Close by, at the Vero Beach airport, another flying enthusiast is helping the Swede to restore a Saab Safir 91D. Lars took his flying certificate in a Klemm 35 - the open type of plane where the passenger sits in front of the pilot - in 1949 while he was studying in Stockholm to become a mining engineer. Later Lars found one of only five remaining Klemms in Sweden as well as a Tiger Moth and shipped them to California where he restored them and painted them with their original Swedish colours. Now he flies with his two planes to events all over North America and Europe still performing loopings and stunt events. When it gets too hot in Florida, Lars moves over to his house at Le Nid de Merle in France.

is a busy city that is growing by leaps and bounds, thanks to an explosion of new condominium developments. It is hard to imagine that this modern retirement haven was founded by the Swedish pastor Bengt Magnus Halland in 1897. He arrived in the United States in 1855 as a lone 17-year old. His widowed mother had died on the sea trip over. Without money or any education, he became a farm worker and a teacher to immigrant children and eventually he saved up enough money to enroll at the Augustana Synod and be ordained as a pastor. He changed his name from Johansson to Halland in honour of his province of birth. Seeing the endless influx of Swedes, he made a deal with a railroad company and founded the Iowa towns and churches of Stanton, Bethesda, Nyman, Creston and Red Oak. When he was taking in the sun and wintering in Florida north of Miami, he could not help but found a new church and that was the foundation of Hallandale.

tourists and sunbathers were some of the subjects of hyper-realistic pop sculptor Duane Hanson (1925-1996). Born in Minnesota, he was an art teacher at the U.S. Army Dependent School System in Germany when he started experimenting with synthetic moulds from bodies to make three-dimensional life-size sculptures that he painted and accessorized to make them realistic. After working in Atlanta and in New York, Hanson moved to Broward County in Florida where he also started working in bronze and making sculptures of clusters of people. The artist who always tried to “ennoble the commonplace, the ephemeral” was named “Florida Ambassador of the Arts” in 1983.

The Valencia Orange
is the basis of the Florida orange concentrate business and it was developed by a young Swedish botanist. Carl Leonard Vihln, who was educated in Uppsala, even has a street named after him in what was once called New Upsala but today is part of the city of Sanford, named after the general, lawyer, diplomat and entrepreneur Henry Shelton Sanford. Credited with developing the citrus industry on the 12 000 acres he bought in 1870 for $2 an acre, Sanford was actually simply following in the footsteps of Johan Anders Bostrm, who founded the towns of Ormond Beach and Daytona Beach. The young seaman and son of a teacher from the island of Gotland decided to stay in Florida in 1855 after he was shipwrecked for the third time. He was the first one to start cultivating oranges that were growing wild in this area. He brought over his siblings and had hundreds of workers helping him with his growing operation. For ten years whole John Andrew Bostrm was Florida’s citrus industry. It was after this that Sanford started importing workers from Sweden and getting into the act. With the help of the Uppsala judge Lars Henschen, 400 Swedes were eventually recruited. They founded New Upsala, building a school, post office, railway station and two churches. Nearby there are some beautiful Swedish-built “Victorian” houses, that the Swedes left behind when the 1894-1895 “double freeze” destroyed the citrus crops and many Swedes packed up and left.

bring together the thousands of Swedes and Swedish-Americans in Florida. In the south there is SWEA - Swedish Women’s Educational Associ-ation (phone 561-395-0959) that organizes networking evenings, Valborg, midsummer, crayfish, and Lucia celebrations for Swedish-speaking women and their families. Swedish-speaking women in Sarasota have an informal group under the auspices of the Swedish Club (941-925-0454) that was founded in 1988. Four Vasa lodges - Royal Palm Lodge in Deerfield Beach (954-427-9987), Jubilee Lodge in DeLand (386-736-7443), Holiday Lodge in Gulfport and Miami Lodge in North Miami (305-891-2606) serve the social needs of Swedish-Americans. SACC - the Swedish American Chamber of Commerce (305-371-2029) takes care of the business people. In Miami there is a Swedish school (305-278-8565) and in St. Petersburg men can rip their hearts out with the Suncoast Swedish Veterans men’s chorus. In Winter Garden there is the Swedish American Society of Central Florida (407-656-8178) that aims to provide an educational link between Swedish-Americans and Sweden and in Jacksonville you have the active Scandinavian American Society of the South (725-1665).

St. Petersburg, FL
is today a city with a quarter of a million inhabitants but it started out as just the end station of Florida’s first railway. The Orange Belt Railway named the places where it opened stations after its investors. When the railway reached the end station the only investors whose names had not been used for a station were the Swedish-born Joseph Henschen (the son of the Uppsala judge who recruited the workers for Sanford) and the Russian-born Demeens. According to the city archives, Henschen felt that both names were too difficult to spell so he suggested that the station be called after Demeens’ place of birth, St. Petersburg. “It will never amount to much of anything anyhow, so its name won’t make any difference,” predicted the Swede!

Ingemar Johansson
was for long the most famous Swede living in Florida. The bricklayer from Gteborg who made Sweden proud when he knocked Floyd Paterson out and became the World Heavyweight Champion in 1959, now lives in a nursing home in Sweden. For years “Ingo” ran the Sea Cay Motel in Pompano Beach, with 14 rooms, almost single-handedly. He was also often seen playing golf with the mayor and the chief of police. After he sold the motel he divided his time between houses in Florida, Dalar in the Stockholm archipelago and Mallorca. Always friendly and approachable, Ingo was always ready to dish out autographs whether he was running the New York marathon or coming off the golf course. Today you may run into Sven Tumba on a golf course or catch a glimpse of journalist Ulf Nilsson, singer Ove Trnquist or entertainer Robert Welles who all have apartments here.

Saga Skafte-Lindblom
is Jacksonville’s honorary Swedish Consul Emeritus and will be honoured by the community when she celebrates her 100th birthday this fall. “She is the Queen Mother of Jacksonville’s international society,” says Darlene Hutto of the Scandinavian-American Club that was, together with the Italian-American Club as well as the German-American Club, founded by Skafte-Lindblom who speaks five languages and still potters in her garden, attends consular meetings and chairs a Dag Hammarskjld Memorial Committee, dedicated to establishing an international research institute at the university.

Cocoa Beach
has a Swedish fashion boutique that looks like it belongs on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. The Season Tickets Boutique (204 West 520 Cocoa Beach Causeway, phone 407-784-8005) and Bianca (on A1A) are run by fashion-savvy se Berggren from the small village of Rangrd near Boliden. She bought a one-way ticket to Miami determined to succeed. Her large boutique is now a landmark for “the cosmopolitan woman of discriminatory taste.” Sofia Sohl in Key Biscayne is another entrepreneur with her Fia Stockholm one-person fashion company bringing over and showing Swedish fashion lines by Agneta Eckemyr and others in her beautiful home. Sohl works both as a representative and orders her own lines that sell as far away as in hotel boutiques in the Bahamas.

A motel in the sun
is a pipe dream for many Swedes. When Gunnar Hedqvist left a pulp and paper career at Sunds Defibrator, he and his wife Monica bought the Sunrise Resort Motel (727-446-9911 in Clearwater Beach on the Mexican Gulf. The 22 room and apartment-motel is within walking distance of the beach, restaurants, nightclubs and shopping. Monica and Gunnar, who have a nice apartment on the premises, love their new lifestyle. In Sarasota, Mikael Mosti bought the motel and apartments at Southland Inn (941-954-5775 also because of the climate and lifestyle. Roger Stjernvall felt he was working too hard at his job for Silja Line so he bought the New Sun Gate Motel in Lake Worth (561-588-8110 that is dedicated to and decorated in honour of “the stars”, from James Dean to Marilyn Monroe. Not far from here you will find Palm Beach Bakery & Caf with the smiling and friendly Ingrid Olsen at the counter. She and her husband have sold their Polar Bakery in Lantana whose limpa and other goodies Swedes are still talking about.

Anders Althin
can thank Florida for a fortune and a remarkable success story. After years as president of the giant dialysis company Gambro, he quit and bought a small fledgling medical corporation in Miami Lakes, carving out a niche, manufacturing dialysis equipment. After taking Althin Medical to a world leading position, he sold the company to Baxter and returned to his native Skne where he is now a major real estate player with properties in Lund and Blekinge worth about SEK 150 million.

From the June 2005 issue and Swedish Press

Popular Posts

Sweden News latest RSS headlines - Big News

Ikea Orlando

Ikea Orlando
Opening Day

Lucia Swedish Tradition

Lucia Swedish Tradition

Winter Park, FL

Winter Park, FL
Winter Park Farmer's Market