The historic Walton-DeFuniak Library could be brought to its former glory with $50K grant

Jim Thompson
Northwest Florida Daily News
The historic Walton-DeFuniak Library, which has operated in DeFuniak Springs from the same building since 1887, is set for a structural assessment with the proceeds of a recently awarded $50,000 state grant. Library staff members have in recent years noted a number of issues with the building, from buckling walls to doors and windows that don't properly open and shut.

DeFUNIAK SPRINGS — After a few years of cracks and buckling in walls and doors, and windows not opening and closing properly, the historic Walton-DeFuniak Library is set to get a serious assessment of its structural integrity that could be a prelude for seeking state funding for any needed repairs. 

According to a news release from Main Street DeFuniak Springs, which works on preservation-based economic development and other community development issues, the city has secured a $50,000 grant from the Florida Division of Historic Resources to take a look at structural issues at the library.

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The Walton-DeFuniak Library, which opened on Dec. 20, 1887, is "the oldest continuously operating library within its original structure in Florida," according to the news release. The library was established as an addition to the Florida Chautauqua resort/campus, which opened in 1885. The grounds ceased operations as a resort/campus in 1935 when the last structure, the Chautauqua Hall of Brotherhood, was sold to the city, but the library continued to operate.

Today, the library is owned by the city, with Walton County operating the library services in the 134-year-old structure.

As library staff members have noticed structural issues in recent years, they reported those concerns to city officials. City officials subsequently applied to the Florida Division of Historical Resources for the grant, whose awarding was announced recently.

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Under terms of the grant, an architect will review structural issues, "provide a full assessment of the cause of the structural changes," and also "provide architectural drawings of the entire structure," according to the Main Street DeFuniak Springs news release.

“Once we know what is happening to the building, we then can provide a professional and comprehensive report to the state to later request the necessary funding to save this historic (building)," DeFuniak Springs City Manager Robert Thompson said in the release. 

"We don’t know the exact cause of the (structural) changes, but once we do, we’ll have a better understanding of the costs involved to fix the problems,” Thompson added.

According to the news release, the assessment was set to begin Thursday and "will take up to a year to complete."

The city does not anticipate any interruption in library services or hours of operation. The library is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, with the exception of Tuesdays, when it is open until 8 p.m.