DeFuniak Springs Lakeside Building now Florida Chautauqua Headquarters

Florida Chautauqua Center

Individuals and companies who wish to be founding supporters of the Florida Chautauqua Center and Assembly headquarters are urged to call(850-892-7613 or write: Florida Chautauqua Center, Inc., 1290 Circle Drive, DeFuniak Springs, FL 32435.

Special to The Sun
Published: Thursday, August 1, 2013 at 05:16 PM.

Lakeside Building (formerly Lakeside Hospital ) on Circle Drive in the Historic District of DeFuniak Springs, is now the new headquarters of the Florida Chautauqua Center .  The 11,372 square foot two-story brick building will be preserved and used by organizers of the official, annual Florida Chautauqua Assembly to organize future assemblies, to exhibit relics from the original assemblies dating from 1885 to 1927, to provide space for other cultural activities, and to provide space for continued education and learning throughout the year.

Dennis Ray, chairman of the Board of the Florida Chautauqua Center, along with wife Brenda, and the organization’s founder Diane Pickett, coordinated the collection of no-interest loans to purchase the building. 

“We felt it was time to catapult the recent success and growth of the revived Assemblies,” said Dennis Ray.  “The event has grown tremendously just since 2008 when Christopher Mitchell became president and started bringing such high profile speakers to DeFuniak Springs like Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, Karl Rove, Naomi Tutu, Jenna Bush-Hager and Céline Cousteau. Attendance has jumped from 6,000 in 2008 to 15,000 this year. That rate of growth and celebration of our local history by a national audience requires a large facility to keep this event and our history alive for generations to come.  We’re proud to be able to coordinate such an effort with such a huge impact on our future.”

Christopher Mitchell, president of the Florida Chautauqua Center, says he can now plan for larger assemblies including a continued quality faculty. 

“We now have a place to bring our famous speakers and faculty members during the historic assembly,” he said, “and we now have enough space for offices and coordinators of seminars and presentations throughout the year leading up to the next great event.”

Mitchell said the Florida Chautauqua Center has collected relics from the Wallace Bruce Family that need an exhibition location. 

“Through the tireless efforts of our historian, Robert Daniel, we’ve collected such items as the string bass used by a famous orchestra during the original assemblies, as well as the ceremonial trowel of the Chautauqua Hall of Brotherhood, a portrait of Wallace Bruce (the longest-serving president of the original assemblies) and original writings of Bruce, who also served as U.S. Consul to Scotland and was a friend of Robert Todd Lincoln.”

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