The hotel was started by two brothers from Chicago named Preston and John Wells. They were from a wealthy family. Their parents had originally been from Shakespeare county in England and as boys, the brothers were taken every year to the family’s country estate there. People often remark that Las Olas Boulevard seems to be European in its atmosphere and the Wells brothers were exposed to Europe from an early age so their influence has been shaping the boulevard for seventy five years.
In the early thirties, John and Preston started coming to Fort Lauderdale for the fishing – sports fishing attracted many people to the area. It was clear that the city needed more accommodation and Preston bought a rooming house on Las Olas Boulevard. It was opposite where the Riverside Hotel now stands. When they went out fishing, they used the services of Michigan native Captain Franklin Merritt and his charter boat. Merritt, his family and his employee – his first mate – used to stay at the rooming house.
When the brothers decided to build their hotel on the river, they needed a manager. Franklin’s employee seemed very suitable. His name was Champ Carr and they named the hotel in his honor.
The hotel was designed by Francis Abreu, who had already built the Las Olas Casino and several luxurious homes in the area. It originally had eighty rooms.