The Philemon Bryan House

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A spirit is known for her warm hospitality.


The Philemon Bryan House is a small, cozy two story turn-of-the-century Florida house, sturdily built in 1905, designed in the then “fashionable Colonial Revival style.”

“Structures are typically two stories with the ridge pole running parallel to the street, [having] a symmetrical front facade with an accented doorway, and evenly spaced windows on either side of it. Features borrowed from colonial period houses of the early 19th century include elaborate front doors, often with decorative crown pediments, fanlights, and sidelights, symmetrical windows flanking the front entrance, often in pairs or threes, and columned porches.”

The Philemon Bryan House has the honor of being the oldest remaining example of “residential masonry architecture” in Fort Lauderdale. Inside, it probably had a parlor to receive guests, a dining area, and perhaps a library. Upstairs were the bedrooms and a bathroom, as the Bryans were wealthy. A kitchen was probably added onto the back of the house.



Mover and shaker and entrepreneur Philemon Nathaniel Bryan came to Fort Lauderdale with his wife Lucy Catherine Bryan and seven children in tow to start over after a freeze took out his entire crop of oranges in Smyrna, Florida, In 1895. He got back on the horse and bought 840 acres of land and planted twenty-five orange trees. He was on his way. His friend Henry Flagler gave him the responsibility of laying railroad track from Pompano Beach to Miami, which he did with the help of his two sons. The New River Railroad that ran from New York to Key West made it to Miami by 1896.

Flush with success, Philemon’s next project was a hotel, The New River Inn, the railroad’s first hotel in his town. Unfortunately, their family house had to be torn down to make room for the new hotel, which was completed in 1905, offering accommodations for forty travelers.

In 1895, Lucy had been given her own home, built by contractor Edwin T. King at the request of the Bryans’ two sons, Reed and Tom. Lucy finally had a home of her own, a needed private space made from the same hollow bricks used to build the New River Inn. Lucy was one happy woman, and spent the rest of her life here until she died in a sudden accident at the age of 72.

During World War 2, the Philemon Bryan House was a boarding house for spouses of deployed soldiers. After the war ended, it became a commercial Yoga Center. Women would come, get dressed in one of the former bedrooms, and enjoy the Yoga session. It was during the Yoga years that Lucy’s spirit started to make an appearance.

Eventually, the Historical Society of Fort Lauderdale bought this cozy home, restored it and renovated it into office space for themselves and another group, the American Institute of Architects.




People who were friendly sorts in life, often continue to be that way in spirit form.

Lucy was known for her warm hospitality.

People who die suddenly (from accidents, illnesses, or natural causes) sometimes aren’t ready to go to the other side quite yet, especially if they had a special place in this world.

Lucy Catherine Bryan had to wait a long time before getting her own cozy house. She loved company coming to see her. One day, when she was 72 years old, she was on her porch shelling peas for the evening dinner when a car driven by a friend parked in front of her yard. She stood up and started down the stairs to greet her friend, when she slipped on a pea pod and broke her pelvis. She died a few days later.



The Friendly Spirit of Lucy Catherine Bryan

Theory: During WW 2, the spirit of Lucy may have given the worried women staying in her house comfort and love as an unseen presence. This wasn’t reported, but it remains a very possible theory.

Her first reported appearance was when a women’s group of Yoga students started having classes in her old living room. She must have been thrilled to have women come once again to her home.

When they got changed into their yoga outfits, they would look in the mirror to be sure nothing was amiss. When they did, they would be startled to see in the mirror the image of an elderly lady with her silver hair in a bun, dressed in a black wool dress, looking at them with her hands clasped, a friendly look of welcome on her face.

When they turned to confront this kindly lady, she wasn’t there, and had disappeared in the mirror as well.

Women have experienced Lucy’s kind, helpful, friendly presence when they have been in her house, giving many people personal experiences with her.

No paranormal investigations have been allowed here by the Historical Society of Fort Lauderdale.


Probably so, though this spirit keeps a low profile, perhaps just bringing a sense of peace as an unseen presence to any worried woman who works for either the Historical Society of Fort Lauderdale or the office of the American Institute of Architects. The Historical Society claims that Lucy isn’t there, but perhaps they are shielding her from ghost hunters and the public. Interestingly, they do say that if she was here, she would be pleased at all the restoration work in her house, now that it has been returned to its former pristine shape.




The Philemon Bryan House
(Offices of Historical Society of Fort Lauderdale and for American Institute of Architects)
227 Southwest 2nd Avenue,
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301
(954) 463-4431

The Philemon Bryan House is located on Southwest 2nd Avenue, south of Southwest 2nd Street, on the right when traveling south.


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