Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee announced this week that Main Street DeFuniak Springs has been designated the March 2019 Florida Main Street Program of the Month. Programs are selected based on their development achievements and participation in the Florida Main Street Program.
“Main Street DeFuniak Springs has demonstrated an exemplary commitment to the revitalization of their downtown,” said Secretary Lee. “In just two years they have made a lasting and positive impact on their entire community.”
In March of 1881, officers of the Pensacola and Atlantic Railroad set out to survey a route for a railroad and during their travels discovered what is today known as DeFuniak Springs. The railroad officers fell in love with the area’s landscape and particularly it’s almost perfectly round lake. They declared it the perfect vacation spot and named it after Frederick DeFuniak, chief engineer of the Pensacola and Atlantic Railroad.
In 1884, DeFuniak Springs was chosen as the winter location of the Florida Chautauqua Assembly. The original grounds of the Chautauqua Assembly consisted of a passenger train depot, a 4,000 seat auditorium and the Chautauqua Hotel. The Chautauqua Assemblies stopped in 1928, but the annual assemblies were brought back in 1993 and have remained a staple of DeFuniak Springs’ culture. This four-day family friendly program features notable keynote speakers, educational sessions, performances and exhbits. This year’s Chautauqua Assembly was held in January, and highlighted Main Street’s positive impacts on their community, both economically and socially.
Today, the Chautauqua Hall of Brotherhood building is still present and has undergone restoration with grants from the Florida Division of Historical Resources. Beautiful Victorian-era cottages still surround the lake and the DeFuniak Springs Historic District is on the National Register of Historic Places.
“DeFuniak Springs was once the winter epicenter of education and enlightenment for an entire generation of Americans and, today, our Main Street is reclaiming the mantle for culture, dining, recreation, commerce and urban living,” said Executive Director Jay Evans.
DeFuniak Springs became a designated Main Street community in 2017 and has made a tremendous impact through the opening of new businesses downtown, creation of jobs and investment into their district. One of their most recent successes includes involving their town in the creation of a brand identity and marketing strategy for the historic district. Their next project will focus on creating a comprehensive visual master plan for their downtown.
“A movement is building in DeFuniak Springs as new businesses and investments change the face of our downtown, and we invite everyone to discover why we say DeFuniak Springs is Naturally Well-Rounded,” said Evans. “We define ourselves through our hospitality, traditions, community pride and warmth to residents and guests alike.”
For more information about Main Street DeFuniak Springs visit mainstreetdfs.org or facebook.com/mainstreetdefuniaksprings. For more information on the Florida Main Street program visit floridamainstreet.com or facebook.com/FloridaMainStreet.
Florida Main Street is a program administered by the Division of Historical Resources under the Florida Department of State, which currently oversees 47 communities throughout the state. By implementing the National Main Street Center’s Four-Point Approach®, Florida Main Street encourages economic development within the context of historic preservation through the revitalization of Florida’s downtowns – the community’s heart and soul.