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DeFuniak Springs Designated a Florida Main Street Program

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Executive Committee of Main Street DeFuniak Springs, Inc. after receiving designation in Fernandina Beach, Florida.  From left—President Reynolds Henderson, Secretary Kristina Perry, and Vice President Bruce Naylor.
Photo by Christopher Mitchell, City of DeFuniak Springs.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner recently announced the designation of DeFuniak Springs, Frostproof and Havana as Florida Main Street communities.

 

As participants in the Florida Main Street program, communities are offered a comprehensive strategy to support local revitalization and historic preservation efforts. With the addition of DeFuniak Springs, Frostproof and Havana, the Florida Main Street program has reached a milestone of 50 designated Main Street communities around the state.

 

“I am pleased to welcome DeFuniak Springs, Frostproof and Havana as the three newest Main Street communities,” said Secretary Detzner. “These cities played an important role in Florida’s history and early economy, and with participation in the Florida Main Street program, their downtowns are again becoming thriving commercial districts. The Florida Main Street program has seen tremendous success since its inception in 1985, and I am proud that we now have 50 designated communities throughout Florida.”

 

Incorporated in 1901, DeFuniak Springs, which is the county seat of Walton County, played a major role during the Chautauqua Movement, a nationwide adult education movement popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as the wintertime home for the Chautauqua Assemblies. The assemblies drew 4,000 people daily to educational seminars based on art, education, recreation and religion.

 

The DeFuniak Springs campus was one of the first planned communities in Florida and served as the center of a thriving economic attraction. The Chautauqua Assemblies were active from 1885 to 1927. Appreciating its role in Florida’s history, the city’s goal is to preserve, promote and diversify the area’s economic base.

 

Located in Polk County, Frostproof is ideally situated along the Lake Wakes ridge and enjoys a vista of rolling hills and miles of orange groves. History shows that the name Frostproof was a marketing ploy to convince northern investors, farmers and homeowners to move to an area that was safe from frost. The town thrived during the 1920s Florida land boom and was once a center for the citrus industry. Many of the historic downtown buildings from this era remain intact and ready for commerce.

 

The town of Havana has a deep‑rooted and unique history. Located in the Panhandle just 20 miles north of Tallahassee, Havana was founded in the late 19th century and was incorporated in 1906. The local economy was long based on growing shade tobacco and at one time produced 95 percent of the shade tobacco on the American market. Havana was one of only two places in the United States where shade tobacco used for wrapping cigars was grown.

 

Shade tobacco was the economic engine of this small community for nearly 100 years before the tobacco industry declined in the early 1960s. Historic buildings that once served the tobacco industry were converted to successful retail stores in the early 1990s. With the Main Street designation, the town plans for a resurgence in retail possibilities.

 

Secretary Detzner’s designation of the latest Florida Main Street communities is based on the recommendation of the six‑member ad hoc Florida Main Street Advisory Committee. Organizations represented on the committee include the Florida Division of Historical Resources, Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, Florida Redevelopment Association, Florida League of Cities, Florida Trust for Historic Preservation, and Marianna Main Street, Inc.

 

Since the Florida Main Street program launched in 1985, Florida Main Street communities have brought in more than $2.6 billion in public and private reinvestment, and created more than 26,000 jobs and 8,000 businesses.

‑ Sarah Revell
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