Once serving as a place for travelers, railroad workers, and businessmen to kick their feet up, the New River Inn hides Fort Lauderdale’s tragic legacy of death, disease, and chaos within its walls. Acting as a hotel for nearly 50 years, the New River Inn fell into disrepair after its closure in 1955. But just because the inn has closed its doors doesn’t mean its ghostly inhabitants have checked out.
Around the turn-of-the-century, the city of Fort Lauderdale suffered from a yellow fever outbreak that left thousands dead and even more displaced. But that wouldn’t stop people from flooding into what is now considered Broward County just years later following the announcement of Governor Napoleon Bonaparte Broward’s ambitious Everglades drainage project, which opened up acres of cheap, fertile swampland for settlers to purchase. With this considerable population “boom,” it’s no wonder the paranormal spirits of this land were perhaps disturbed, bringing about a long series of dark, troubling events in revenge that continue to plague Fort Lauderdale to this day.
Initially built in 1905, the New River Inn has seen a lot in its over 100 years of history. The building, formerly known as the New River Hotel, was commissioned by Nathan Philemon Bryan, a Jacksonville native and U.S. senator who sensed the area’s need for overnight accommodations after moving to Fort Lauderdale in 1895. He hired a contractor named Edwin T. King to build the structure seen today, and it served as a hotel until 1955.
While the New River Inn story might sound like a by-the-books American success story on the surface, the site has a treasure trove of horrifying, hidden secrets. For one, many have speculated that children lost their lives in the nearby river and on the surrounding railroad tracks. Further, with the hotel being built directly after the yellow fever epidemic, this site has been riddled with death and disease since before the structure was opened to the public. The misfortune has made it a struggle to shed this historic hotel of its dark past.
Some say that figures from Fort Lauderdale’s past haunt the entirety of the Fort Lauderdale Historic Village complex. Still, the New River Inn seems to have garnered an especially impressive roster of otherworldly guests over the years. Manifestations are commonplace at the former inn, which is said to be particularly active at night.
Guests to the building have reported seeing the restless entity of a man who appears to be a rancher or cowboy, pacing back and forth on the hotel’s first floor and the front porch as if he’s waiting for someone. The spirit has even been said to interact with guests, glaring at spectators as if to say, “What are you looking at?” before disappearing.
The apparition of a little girl said to be LuLu Marshall—perhaps a drowning victim of the nearby river—also haunts the New River Inn, dressed in turn-of-the-century attire. Purportedly, she likes to play with a toy near the New River nearby and has been seen looking out the windows of the building as well. She can be pretty talkative and has allegedly told visitors she lives in a two-story house before vanishing.
Perhaps the most infamous soul to roam the shadowy corridors of the former New River Inn is its founder, Nathaniel P. Bryan, who died in the hotel on August 8, 1935. Nearly 100 years after his passing, Nathaniel seems to be enjoying his hotel and is often seen in the background of guests’ photos as a disembodied arm or leg. Some say that if you peep through the front door after the museum has closed for the night, you’ll see Nathaniel’s grumpy face looking back at you, with white hair and a stern expression that will make you want to run the other way. It’s good to see that even from beyond the grave, Nathaniel is reaping the rewards of his inn with a lifelong stay.
The hotel was listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1972, ensuring its protection and conservation. Today, the New River Inn can be found in Fort Lauderdale’s Historic Village, right behind the 1907 King-Cromartie House, near Fort Lauderdale’s Historic Museum. The property continues to be managed by the local historical society and includes permanent exhibits like “Panorama of the Past.” For more on the most haunted stays in America’s South, visit our blog, and be sure to keep up with U.S. Ghost Adventures on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.