By Denise Mack
Lakeside Hospital was first established in DeFuniak Springs as a clinic by Dr. Ralph Spires in 1938. He was responsible for bringing modern medical practices to this area of Florida when he originally built the clinic and then expanded it in partnership with Dr. Edgar Myers with the addition of a second floor a few years later making it a hospital purportedly with the first elevator installed between Tallahassee and Jacksonville.
Many personnel joined Dr. Spires and Dr. Myers over the years in providing quality medical care. The hospital closed in 1972 when more modern facilities were built in the area. Over the years, the attractive building served a variety of purposes such as dental-medical offices and a family residence.
Unfortunately, the facility fell into disrepair when it was vacated.
In 2013, the original Lakeside Hospital at 1290 Circle Drive was purchased by Florida Chautauqua Association, a nonprofit organization. Every year, the Florida Chautauqua holds a four-day program to bring educational programs and speakers to DeFuniak Springs.
The Assembly program commemorates the early history of the Chautauqua movement in America, which had begun in New York. DeFuniak Springs was the second permanent Chautauqua location, beginning in 1884-1885 and bringing education to rural communities. At its height, more than 3,000 Chautauquas existed throughout the country.
When the Florida Chautauqua moved into the former Lakeside Hospital building, cleanup of the facility and the most needed of repairs were completed thanks to the hard work and dedication of then-president Chris Mitchell, secretary Freida Thibodeau, historian Robert Daniel, chairman Dennis Ray and some dedicated community volunteers.
But time and the ravages of inclement weather have taken a toll on the building, particularly the roof and drainage systems. Despite fundraisers and the small amount of revenue generated from yearly Chautauqua programs, enough money has not been raised to put a new roof on the building.
With an improving economy, Florida’s Department of State has limited available funds for historic preservation, and Florida Chautauqua is in the process of applying for a grant to be able to put a new roof on the former Lakeside Hospital building.
However, state grants have financial requirements. Most communities receiving grants have to raise 50 percent of the money that they are requesting in a grant. DeFuniak Springs is fortunate to be recognized as a REDI community (Rural Economic Development Initiative-eligible county) and only has to raise 10 percent.
Estimates for a new roof, gutters, soffit, fascia, rafter repair and replacement on the building have started to come in, and additional estimates are still being sought. The Special Category Grant that is being written needs to be completed by early June.
Funds to meet the 10 percent threshold are sought to help meet the minimal requirement for the grant. Donations can be made online at gofundme.com/2fxhx7ak, or checks made out to Florida Chautauqua can be dropped off at or mailed to the Little Big Store, located at 35 8th Street. Store hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
For those who would like to take a tour of the building or drop off a check, Florida Chautauqua is open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon. Many delight in a visit to the hospital where thousands of babies—now grown adults—were delivered.
Do your part to save this community treasure.
- Art Classes & Workshops
- Art Events
- Art Galleries
- Artist Joey McKenna Steps into Nature This Month at SoWal Library
- Call to Artists
- Adopt a Family for the Holidays
- Community Bank Invests $15,000 in NWF State College Students
- Making an Impact: Over $500K Awarded to Local Nonprofits
- Caring and Sharing: Café Thirty-A’s Annual Christmas Charity Ball
- Hold the Dishwashing, Please… Thanksgiving Dining Out Options
- North Beach Tortilla Co. Offers Sand and Sunsets in Santa Rosa Beach
- Overproof, Full Proof and Navy Strength Rums…and the Cocktails That Love Them
- Restaurant Guide
- Rosemary Beach Prohibition Repeal Wine Dinner Set for Dec. 7
- Where to Spend Your Happy Hours
- It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Hallmark!
- Local Film Screenings
- Reviews: Dafoe and Pattinson Shine in “Lighthouse,” Eddie Gets His Dolemite On
- Eric Paslay’s Favorite Live Tracks
- Live Music
- Rock Stars of Comedy… Gallagher Is Coming to Town
- The Pauseandplay.com Record Roundup
- The Record That Changed My Life: Al Alvarado
Harbor Docks Celebrates 25 Years of Thanksgiving Tradition
By Chris Manson Former Harbor Docks owner and Beachcomber contributing writer Charles Morgan credits longtime employee Ann Jones (a/k/a Miss Ann) with the idea of opening the restaurant on Thanksgiving Day....
Where to Spend Your Happy Hours
Baxter’s Bar & Grille 605 James Lee Road Fort Walton Beach 850-812-6868 When: 3-6 PM and 10 PM-Midnight daily. Closed Mondays (for now). Drink Specials: $3 wells, $2 drafts. Camille’s at Crystal...
North Beach Tortilla Co. Offers Sand and Sunsets in Santa Rosa Beach
By Lauren Sage Reinlie Northwest Florida has a new spot to unwind and soak up all the beauty the area has to offer. Chef Jim Shirley’s North Beach Tortilla Co....
Bob Luongo writes: “Two years ago my Jack Russell friend of 15 years died. Penny was my constant companion. For the last two years I’ve had many recurring dreams where I was...
Thursday, Nov. 7 AJ’S ON THE BAYOU, Fort Walton Beach HAYES & HOWLAND, 5-9 PM CAMILLE’S, Destin, CamillesAtCrystalBeach.com DEAN SADOWSKI, 3-5 PM G.I. JADE TIKI BAR AND BISTRO, Fort Walton Beach BOBBYD, 6-9 PM Ladies...
Rock Stars of Comedy… Gallagher Is Coming to Town
By Nikki Hedrick Not many comedians reach household name status. Gallagher, by his account, has logged over 4,000 shows and over a dozen comedy TV specials, and has only been slightly...