Posts Tagged ‘Defuniak Springs’

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We now come to my least favorite part of the Panhandle, Crestview. I mean, it’s a thriving town, due to state politicians from the area ensuring there were big military bases in the area. Happy that people have jobs and a growing economy and all that. But the place has none of the charm that you find anywhere else in the Panhandle. The courthouse isn’t on US 90, though close. And it’s ugly. The only part that looks older than 20 years is the downtown historic district. Yet that doesn’t help much, since it’s only a few blocks long and fairly blah. Downtown Wildwood is more interesting, and that’s saying something.

So scope out the historic district, and maybe the old depot on the edge that’s closed now. If you’re hungry, you can kill two birds by going to the KFC on SR 85 and visiting the Lundy monument across from it. ‘Cause that’s about all the scenicness the town has to offer. If there’s anything else, I’d love to know about it. (see Google map)

From here, you can continue on US 90 east, or take a radical detour to Alabama, or near enough. It’s going to take at least an hour out of your trip, but I’d include it. Maybe not the first time you’re in this neck of the woods, but some time. You see, you’re only 30 miles from the highest natural point in Florida. All 345 feet of it. Britton Hill.

It’s less than a mile from the Alabama, and the town of Florala. The road to get to Britton Hill (CR 285) is not as well maintained as I’d expect for one leading to such a significant state landmark. Even the signage to get there isn’t that great. A small park has been built on the site, with basic facilities. It’s across from a huge open field, so you can see the landscape rolling away from you. The drive to and from here is pretty and relaxing too, what with the gentle up-and-down of the road and the almost total lack of traffic. This is what I’m talking about when I tell folks how great the Panhandle is, Crestview notwithstanding. (see Google map)

Getting to US 90 again from here, just take US 331 south. Should you be going east on US 90 from Crestview instead, you’ve got another 30 miles stretch of forest to go through. Now, though, the trees are closer and the road curves more. Not radically, just enough so you’re not subject to highway hypnosis. The next town is as opposite as you can get from Crestview. Probably why it’s my favorite town in the Panhandle. That and the name. DeFuniak Springs.

It was named after Frederick R. De Funiak, a VP for the L&N Railroad. For a while it was a social center, home to a southern branch of the Chautauqua. The town was built around Lake DeFuniak. Circle Drive goes around the lake, but only three buildings are on the inner side. They are the First Presbyterian Church, the Walton-DeFuniak Library, and the Chautauqua Hall of Brotherhood. All the others are on the outside, so it’s like the lake is surrounded by a long circular park. Lake DeFuniak itself is the only round spring-fed lake in the Western Hemisphere. The only other lake like it is near Zurich.

Unlike Crestview, major efforts have been made to preserve DeFuniak Springs’ past. Most of the houses around the lake are historic, the downtown has lots of historic buildings. Unfortunately, this hasn’t helped out their economy as much as it should. I wouldn’t want it to turn into Crestview, but it would be nice if they got more tourism so they’d have more income to help in their preservation efforts. Please visit, walk around the lake and downtown, go to the winery south of town, stay the night, and tell your friends. It’s also a great place to use as a base to explore the area. (see Google map)

Twelve miles to the east of DeFuniak Springs is the subject of my very first post on this blog, Ponce de Leon Springs State Park. That post, and these pictures, say it all. (see Google map)

You’ll be coming to the Choctawhatchee River soon. If you want to get a different perspective, and a better look at the river, take the turnoff on your right (Boat Ramp Road) just after crossing the bridge. It ends in an open area at the river. You can see the underside of the bridge, and see the old railroad bridge next to it up close and personal. There aren’t any tables, but if it’s sunny and you have a blanket and some food, it wouldn’t be a bad place for a picnic.

Time for one more detour almost to Alabama, up CR 179. This one is only 13 miles, though, and the road is fairly level the whole way. It’s another one I’m proud of, since it was hard to find. It happens to be the only NRHP in Holmes County, the Keith Cabin. I tried finding it the first time I was in the area in 2008, but failed. I thought I’d passed it, but after I got home and did more research, I realized I hadn’t gone far enough. I didn’t get back to the area for over 2 and a half years, but when I did, I found it. Made of wood and over a century, yet it looks brand new. Someone, or someones, put a lot of love into it being in that great of condition. (see Google map)

Last is Bonifay. It’s the county seat for Holmes County, but I just passed through until I found there were a few historic bits. Nothing on the NRHP, but there is stuff that’s eligible. I rather like the old houses. (see Google map)

  • Residence (105 Waukasha Street) (AGFHA)
  • Commercial Buildings (Pennsylvania Avenue and Waukasha Street) (AGFHA)
  • Holmes County Courthouse (201 North Oklahoma Street)
  • Old Holmes County Jail (North Oklahoma St and Nebraska Ave)
  • Residence (209 Kansas St. East) (AGFHA)
  • Residence (411 Tracey St. North) (AGFHA)
  • Residence (803 Waukasha Street) (AGFHA)

Nearly done with US 90. In a few weeks I’ll knock out the last bit, between Bonifay and Tallahassee. Oh, except for Jacksonville, but I’m putting that off for a while. Sorry, just not a big fan of that city. Anyway, that’s it for now. See you on the road!

Route length: 85 miles

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Sun Bright is in DeFuniak Springs, in the Panhandle. It was the home of Sidney J. Catts, who was the state’s 22nd governor (1917 to 1921).  The house was built between 1886 and 1890. There are a number of old homes like this in DeFuniak Springs, mostly around Lake DeFuniak. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and included in “A Guide to Florida’s Historic Architecture”. See more photos here.

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