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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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
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 www.sunriseresortfla.com) 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 www.southlandinn.com) 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
www.new-sungate.com) 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.
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