Old Lakeside Hospital Added to the National Register of Historic Places

DeFuniak Springs, FL…Old Lakeside Hospital Building at 1290 Circle Drive in DeFuniak Springs, Florida has been added to the National Register of Historic Places by the U.S. Department of the Interior Tuesday, July 20, 2021.  The building opened as a one-story clinic in 1939 by Dr. Ralph Spires and later a two-story hospital in 1949 by Dr. Spires and business/medical partner Dr. Edgar Myers.  The hospital closed in 1972.  The nonprofit Florida Chautauqua Association purchased the building in 2013 to save it from deterioration and demolition, and for later use as a museum, community events and the official headquarters of the annual, multi-day Florida Chautauqua Assembly held each January.

“We are so excited to learn of this significant designation by the U.S. Department of the Interior,” says Christopher Mitchell, President of the Florida Chautauqua Association.  “Board Member Denise Mack did most of the significant research required for the thesis section of the application, and we are grateful to her and all who participated in the oral history interviews to make this application submission successful including representatives of the Florida Division of Historical Resources.”

The old Lakeside Hospital building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places on its own historical merits related to health care services during the early 1940s and through the 1950s and 60s.  While the building and health care services were segregated during the first half of the hospital’s history, newspaper articles dated back to 1939 have noted that African Americans were medically served by Dr. Spires since opening day while other health care providers throughout much of the South did not provide care to Black patients.  Much of the footprint of the structure, including the once-segregated entrance from Live Oak Avenue and segregated wards on the west side of the building are still intact.  In addition, newspaper articles document the significant impact medical services by Dr. Spires, Dr. Myers and other physicians who practiced here had on the Florida panhandle community relating to polio vaccinations, births, reduction of infant mortality, and women’s health.

The Florida Chautauqua Association leaders have secured a $50,000 grant from the Florida Division of Historical Resources for an architectural assessment of the building to determine the building’s needs for restoration and rehabilitation.  The Association will now conduct annual capital campaigns and seek additional funding from the public to support the needs of matching funds for various grant opportunities.

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