23 Oct 1999
In 1881 a survey party for the L&N Railroad was searching for a route for the railroad between Pensacola and Tallahassee. They found an area with a beautiful naturally round lake (one of only two naturally round lakes in the world), 75 miles east of Pensacola, 120 miles west of Tallahassee. Here they created a way station and named the lake, DeFuniak Lake, for Frederick DeFuniak, an official with the railroad. Fron the begining, farming was the chief occupation in the area
A group from the Chautauqua Assembly from New York were touring Florida, looking for a suitable site for their winter quarters, and visited Lake DeFuniak. In 1884 the Florida Chautauqua Association was organized, and held its first assembly in DeFuniak Springs in February 1885. Until the late 1920's, this assembly caused DeFuniak Springs to be one of the cultural centers of the southeast. As many as 4,000 people a day arrived at the L&N Depot during the Chautauqua Era. (Chautauqua was one of the most notable products of the 'camp meeting ideas' in the late 19th century. Begun as a Sunday School Camp Meeting Asssembly on the shores of Chautauqua Lake in southwestern New York,this movement quickly grew to meet the demand for quality education and religious instruction. Chautauqua Assembly was a highly successful educational endeavor.)
Today, Lake DeFuniak is the center of the Historic District, with over 150 buildings on the National Historic Register . Around this beautiful naturally round Lake, you will find the oldest Library in the state, the Chautauqua Assembly Building (completed in 1909 the upstairs classrooms could be opened up to seat 1000 people), the Chautauqua Amphitheater (the largest in the south in 1926, now remodeled and a home for plays and concerts),and numeroous unique Homes of varying architectural styles with histories of their own. Also, the original (restored) Railroad Depot, several Churches and a Hospital.
DeFuniak Springs is a city of approximately 7,000, north from I-10 on SR 331. It is the County Seat of Walton County and is said to be one of the fastest growing places in Florida. You will find many local businesses, including antique shops, specialty shops, restaurants and a shopping center. A truly worthwhile visit, if you would like to get away for a while from the busy, fast-moving way of life that we all seem to follow these days.
Information from: Encarta 98 online and 'Hidden Florida', Ulysses Press, 1989 Berkley, Ca.