Old Lakeside Hospital receives national attention

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DEFUNIAK SPRINGS Fla. (WMBB) — A historic building in DeFuniak Springs has delivered life to many residents and their ancestors, quite literally. Now its recognition goes further than just north of the bay.

The Old Lakeside Hospital in Walton County, located along the circular lake, is getting recognition on the National Registry of Historic Places. This building’s history is different than the others in DeFuniak’s Historic District.

“Nurses could see that the lights above the doors and get right to the patient during the night,” said Florida Chautauqua Association President Chris Mitchell.

The Old Lakeside Hospital started as a one-story clinic, in 1939. Nearly ten years later, it grew to 11,500 square feet, a two-story building, to care for all across the panhandle.

“It just got placed on the National Registry of Historic Places, because of its own history,” said Mitchell. “Because of what took place within these halls and within these rooms.” 

If only these walls could talk, but instead, residents remember stories of their ancestors.

“A lot of people’s grandparents passed away here, a lot of people’s children were born here,” he said.

In the early 1900s, many doctors only cared for white patients. But this hospital was different.

“African American women who were pregnant would walk up those steps that was closest to the building and deliver their baby right here on what used to be a patio,” said Mitchel. “They weren’t allowed to deliver their babies in the building during segregation.”

Old Lakeside Hospital Founder Doctor Spires made provisions.

“The doctor seemed to be a little ahead of this time, and that enabled  this building to be placed on the National Registry of Historic Places.”

Along with the new historic recognition, Florida provided a $50,000 grant for an architectural assessment.

“So we can figure out what’s wrong with it, is there asbestos in the building and how much does it cost to remove it,” said Mitchell. 

Michell said it is going to take a lot of work and nearly one million dollars to help preserve this building’s history. The Florida Chautauqua Association is starting to look for volunteers to help kick start this journey. To learn more visit their website.

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