DeFUNIAK SPRINGS — Restoration of the old Lakeside Hospital at 1290 Circle Drive is under way by the board of directors of the Florida Chautauqua Association.
The first phase of the project started June 26 with the removal of rotten wood and repair of joists and rafters. The $140,000 phase I project also includes installation of metal roofing material over the hospital section along with new gutters to stop water intrusion.
Lakeside Hospital was opened as a one-story clinic in 1939. A second story was added and opened in 1949 to become a two-story hospital. The original 1949 elevator is believed to be the first operating elevator between Tallahassee and Pensacola, and is still in working order with all original parts dated 1949, the year it was installed.
Board member/project coordinator Christopher Mitchell says the original floor reveals the location of walls removed decades ago to make certain areas larger.
“We now see where the pharmacy was once located on the first floor, and a hallway which led from the lobby to Dr. Spires office," he said in a press release from the Florida Chautauqua Association. Dr. Ralph Spires was the founder of Lakeside Clinic in 1939.
“We also found original wood floors in Dr. Edgar Myers’ office on the first floor, with no evidence that the floor ever had tile over it,” Mitchell said in the release. “Unfortunately, that floor is not in good shape, but an expert floor restorer should be able to give some advice on the feasibility of keeping all of the original wood floor or simply replacing it.”
The original wards for black men and women before integration are still intact in the ambulance bay area.
Paul Rushing, the project's general contractor, believes that metal donated to the Florida Chautauqua Association a few years ago may be enough to cover the ambulance bay once the roof over that section of the building is demolished.
Mitchell is working with various foundations and state agencies to investigate ways to secure grants and other funding to upgrade all electrical, plumbing and sprinkler systems in stages throughout the entire building. Plans are also under way to turn the ambulance bay area into a museum for Florida Chautauqua history and the first floor of the hospital as a display of Lakeside Hospital history, showing photographs and exhibiting relics relating to the clinic/hospital history.
Anyone with photos taken inside Lakeside from 1939 to 1972 should call Mitchell at 850-419-5578. Photos will be scanned to become a permanent part of Lakeside’s history. Mitchell is also seeking former staffers at the hospital to contact him about the layout of the pharmacy and to answer questions relating to the nursing station on the second floor for future restoration plans.