City Takes Steps to Save Historic Library

DeFuniak Springs, FL…The City of DeFuniak Springs has secured a $50,000 grant from the Florida Division of Historical Resources to assess the structural integrity of the historic Walton-DeFuniak Library on Circle Drive in DeFuniak Springs.  

The library in 1917
The Library Today (Photo by Public Information Officer Christopher Mitchell)

This is the oldest continuously operating library within its original structure in Florida – never closing since the day it officially opened on December 20, 1887, as a new addition to the Florida Chautauqua resort/campus.  The once-gated campus required an entry fee from those arriving by train for a day-long or multi-day visit for educational and recreational activities of the annual, multi-week Florida Chautauqua Assembly.  The campus opened in 1885, and the grounds ceased operations as a resort/campus in 1935 when the last structure, the Chautauqua Hall of Brotherhood, was sold to the City of DeFuniak Springs.  However, the library continued to operate.  The City of DeFuniak Springs owns the structure, and the Walton County government operates the library services.

In recent years, library staff have noticed walls cracking and buckling along with doors and windows not functioning properly.  Staff concerns have been reported to City officials who applied for a grant from the Florida Division of Historical Resources to hire an architect to review the structural changes, provide architectural drawings of the entire structure and provide a full assessment of the cause of the structural changes. 

“Once we know what is happening to the building,” says City Manager Robert Thompson, “we then can provide a professional and comprehensive report to the State to later request the necessary funding to save this historic relic.  We don’t know the exact cause of the changes, but once we do, we’ll have a better understanding of the costs involved to fix the problems.”

The library assessment project begins July 1 and will take up to a year to complete.  City officials do not anticipate any interruption to library services or hours of operation.