Fort Walton Beach Local Customs

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Most Recent Local Customs in Fort Walton Beach

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    Walking Tour - Start

    by grandmaR Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    Street sign for the Temple Mound
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    We got a walking tour brochure from the Indian Temple Mound Museum. I think you can also get one at the Chamber of Commerce. The Walking Tour starts with the Indian Temple Mound and museum at 139 S. E. Miracle Strip Parkway. We did start there, but we didn't walk very much of the tour - I directed Bob to drive to most of the places in the car. We had the most problem getting pictures of the places that were right on Miracle Strip Parkway.

    At the Indian Temple Mound Museum are all kinds of artifacts such as pottery and arrowheads. Some of the items (but not all of them) are from local Indians including exhibits that depict the four prehistoric cultural time periods whose artifacts have been recovered in the Northwest Florida region. These are the Paleo, Archaic, Woodland and Mississippian. There are all kinds of interactive exhibits for school children to participate in.

    According to the museum website: Built as a ceremonial and political center by the Mound Builder Culture between 800-1400AD, this mound is the largest on salt water and possibly the largest prehistoric earthwork on the Gulf Coast. The Fort Walton Temple Mound stands 17 feet tall and measures 223 feet across its base. An estimated 500,000 basket loads of earth were used to create this earthen structure. In 1964 the Temple Mound was designated a National Historic Landmark and is listed on the National Historic Register.

    The temple, on top of the mound, was used as the residence of the leader, a temple for religious ceremonies, and a place to direct the activities of the village. It was and still is a sacred burial ground

    You can walk up onto the Temple Mound where there is a reconstructed temple. We also walked all the way around the Mound.

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  • Talk to the locals!

    by tim_cason Written Jun 4, 2008

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    I was reading this post about Staff's Restaurant and wanted to add something here. Staff's Restaurant is the OLDEST FAMILY OWNED RESTAURANT in the state of FLORIDA! There are still family members at this place every single day, and when you're there you should ask them about the place, the family, the town, the food etc. It's such an interesting place. The STAFF family where some of the first to settle in the Fort Walton Beach area (actually it was called Camp Walton back then). There is an old hotel behind the restaurant that was also owned by the Staff Family. The hotel isn't open anymore, but I think it was designated as a state landmark or something about 10 years ago.
    If you're looking for REAL, AUTHENTIC Florida cuisine, served by a family that's been in the same spot for well over 100 years, Staff's Restaurant is, without question, the answer!

    Staff's is located in the heart of downtown Fort Walton Beach. If you need directions ask any local you see; literally!

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    #12 a, d Gulfview Hotel District 1906-1945

    by grandmaR Updated Aug 21, 2006

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    12a Gulfview Hotel
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    12a - Gulfview Hotel - 1906 - Miracle Strip Parkway

    The hotel is actually end on to the Miracle Strip a bit behind the Staff Restaurant. This was one of the first hotels in Camp Walton and is of the architectural style of the turn of the century. It was purchased by the Gerlach/Staff families in 1913 and served as a social center for guests who arrived by boat. There are 14 guest rooms with private baths, a lobby, dining room, kitchen, service rooms and porch.

    12b will have a separate tip and so will 12c which is Staffs Restaurant

    12d is the Boat House - 1945 - Miracle Strip Parkway

    If I am correct about the location of this house, it was toward the water from the hotel. This was the vacation home of Mr. and Mrs. E. A. Staff, part owners of the Gulfview Hotel. It was constructed on a dock over pilings of an earlier boat house.

    Located at the entrance to the Gulfview Hotel is a Great Floridian plaque dedicated to Adam J. Gerlach, who was born in 1846 in Indiana and came to Camp Walton in 1912. The following year, along with his son-in-law and daughter, he purchased the Gulfview Hotel. The Gulfview was built in 1906 as a hunting and fishing lodge and is one of the earliest structures remaining in Fort Walton Beach. Adam Gerlach died in 1920.

    Gulfview Hotel Historic District (added 1992 - District - #92001402)
    Also known as Gulfview Hotel;8Ok652
    12 Miracle Strip Pkway, SE., Fort Walton Beach

    Historic Significance: Architecture/Engineering, Event
    Architect, builder, or engineer: Goodrich,E.B.
    Area of Significance: Architecture, Social History, Commerce
    Period of Significance: 1900-1924, 1925-1949
    Owner: Private
    Historic Function: Commerce/Trade, Domestic
    Historic Sub-function: Hotel, Restaurant, Single Dwelling
    Current Function: Commerce/Trade, Domestic
    Current Sub-function: Restaurant, Single Dwelling

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    #6 Brooks Memorial Cemetery

    by grandmaR Updated Aug 21, 2006

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    Name over the entrance gate
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    The land for this cemetery at 129 Shell Street was donated in 1939 by John Thomas Brooks who is considered to be the founder of Fort Walton Beach. The cemetery was named in his honor. Inside the cemetery is his Great Floridian plaque which includes a memorial to his wife Harriett G. Brooks.

    Brooks was born in 1838 and in 1867 after being stationed in Fort Walton during the Civil War, he settled in the area with his wife and daughter. He built a log cabin along the community’s first street—Brooks Street. Brooks became the community’s de facto doctor through his Civil War service in an army hospital, frequently making his "house calls" by rowboat. He established the area’s first hotel, the Brooks House (renamed the Brooks Hotel) in 1902. Brooks gave land to the Catholic Church for its first house of worship. He died in 1917.

    Many early residents of the City are buried here. Visitation Hours for the cemetery are 8:00 a.m. - 10: p.m.

    The Cemetery was designated a City Historic Site on September 26, 1989. A sign on the gate (4th photo) says

    "FOR SYMPATHETIC
    CONSIDERATION
    WALKING OF PETS AND
    RIDING OF RECREATIONAL
    VEHICLES IS PROHIBITED BY
    CITY ORDINANCE 866

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    #19 Frances Pryor Camellia Gardens

    by grandmaR Updated Aug 21, 2006
    Garden from across the street

    This garden is listed at 146 Brooks Street and is across from the Fort Walton Landing park. At the end of the path is the Little Chapel (#18).

    The garden was set up in honor of Frances Brooks Pryor, the daughter of John T. and Harriet Brooks. She was the first baby girl born to the new settlers at Camp Walton and grew up to become an active civic leader in the community. She founded the Fort Walton Beach Camillia Society. The camillia is the official City Flower. Diana Pryor Sloat, a daughter of Mrs. Pryor provided the garden to the City.

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    #17 Tringas Theatre - 1940

    by grandmaR Updated Aug 21, 2006
    Theatre

    This theatre which is now Suds and Cinema or Cinema Plus at 174 Miracle Strip Parkway is across from the start of the tour at the Indian Temple Mound and Museum. It was built for John Tringas by Eglin contractors. Earlier movies were shown on a screen in the open air on top of the Temple Mound.

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    #14 Fort Walton Landing

    by grandmaR Updated Aug 18, 2006

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    Fort Walton Landing Entrance
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    This park at 131 Brooks Street was one that we passed often when we were coming and going from our hotel - especially when going east toward Destin. It was the site of many early houses and is now used as a community gathering place for family picnics, "Sunday in the Park" and festivals including the annual "Billy Bowlegs Festival" held in June. (There were three men with the 'Billy Bowlegs' nickname.) In the summer they have Friday night flicks each Friday through August at 8:30pm. Free admission

    The park has a playground setup. At the time we were there, they had an ice rink set up for the holidays. There were also many Christmas lights in the trees.

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    #12 b -Gerlach House- one of 3 prefabs(10 & 15)

    by grandmaR Written Dec 28, 2005

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    Gerlach - Sears prefab house

    Miracle Strip Parkway- This building was built on the Gulfview Hotel grounds for Adam Gerlach in 1914. It is another one that is a prefabricated kit from Sears which was brought to the site by barge and assembled. I did not get pictures of the other two prefab houses at #10 and #15. This house is across from the hotel.

    The #10 house at 207 Shell Avenue S.E. was the first example on the tour of a prefabricated Sears mail order house from the early part of the century (1913 in this case). The house was built by and for E. R. McKees who was a forest ranger in Niceville. The house was used as a ranger station for Camp Walton.

    I also missed #15, which was White House built in 1925 at 189 Brooks Street. That one was a prefabricated mail order house from Sears built for Fred H. White (hence the name - it isn't a replica of the one in Washington D.C.) It served as a temporary public school for older students while a second room was being added to the Camp Walton School (#2) in 1927.

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    # 11 Beal House - 1910

    by grandmaR Updated Dec 28, 2005

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    Brochure picture of the Beal House

    The brochure picture is of #11 the Beal House built in 1910 which is at 2 Miracle Strip Parkway which is across the street and down in the next block. Pictures of houses on Miracle Strip Parkway were hard to get from the car because of the traffic. This was the home of Dr. J. H. Beal who bought it (along with an adjacent house) in the early 1900s. Dr. Beal used this house as his office and to house his extensive shell collection. He discovered several new species of medicinal plants and was something of a pharmacological expert and a speaker at seminars of pharmacology throughout the country. He also made several land donations to civic and cultural development of the city.

    According to the brochure, the building was extensively remodeled as a restaurant in the 1980s so it may not look like this anymore.. The pictures in the brochure are courtesy of David Shea's Photographic Studio

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    # 9 Docie Bass House - 1945

    by grandmaR Updated Dec 28, 2005

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    Docie Bass House
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    I wasn't really doing this as a walking tour. Bob was driving me around to the various places to take pictures. The first pictures I took, I took across through the driver's window and as we were passing through the windshield. So the next day, we came back and to get the cemetery, and I took another one of the Bass House which is at 4 First Street across diagonal from the St. Mary's Catholic Church.

    Theodore "Docie" Bass was an early Fort Walton Beach builder as well as a prominent community leader, and City Councilman. He married one of the twin daughters of Theodore "Pop" Staff and started the Staff Cafe. The restaurant is still owned by his family. A monument and the City Recreation Center are both named in his honor.

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    #12c Staffs Restaurant 1915

    by grandmaR Updated Dec 28, 2005

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    Staff's restaurant
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    The Staffs were among the early and very colorful settlers. Theodore "Pop" Staff and his wife Amelia "Molly" Gerlach Staff were married in 1901. They moved to from Indiana to Medina Mexico where they grew vegetables and especially pineapple. They had eight children including a pair of twin girls. Due to the Mexican revolution, the family left Mexico in 1912 and settled on the Gulf Coast of Florida in Camp Walton.

    Theo purchased a hotel from Mr. L.I. Smith a retired MN banker, and began the Gulfview Hotel. He spent a lot of time fishing, and also coached all his children to be champion swimmers.

    Joining the Staff clan from Indian were Joe and Dick Gerlach - Molly's brothers. They became the first automobile dealers in the area, selling the early Oldsmobiles, Stars, Maxwell and Studebakers, later becoming Chevrolet dealers. The building that is now a restaurant was built to house the cars of the guests at the hotel. and then became a Studebaker dealership.

    One of the twins Agnes "Aggie" Staff married Theodore "Docie" Bass. Mr. Docie established the Staff Cafe in 1931 using the former garage/car dealership building at 24 Miracle Strip Parkway

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    #13 Duggan Guest Cottage 1938

    by grandmaR Updated Dec 27, 2005

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    Duggan Guest Cottage on Brooks Street

    You can see in this picture the security sign which is outside many of the privately owned homes which are on the Historical Walk.

    This bungalow style house at 109 E. Brooks Street was constructed of cypress from the W. E. Duggan lumber mill in Milligan Alabama. It was first used as a summer guest cottage.

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    #20 Masonic Building - 1948

    by grandmaR Written Dec 27, 2005
    Masonic Building

    The Masonic Building at 118 Miracle Strip Parkway S.E. is now Coach and Four which is a gift shop. Originally it was the post office.

    The Masonic Building is down the street from the Little Chapel and diagonally across from the Indian Mound. You can see the Mason's insignia on the top of the building, and the Masons still use the second floor for the Lodge meetings.

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    #18 The Little Chapel in Vandegriff Park

    by grandmaR Written Dec 27, 2005
    Street side of chapel
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    I took a picture of this from across the street at the Indian Mound, but it was somewhat obstructed from this angle. I later took a picture from opposite Fort Walton Landing.

    The park was provided to Fort Walton Beach by the Vandergriff family. The chapel was constructed in the late 1940s and was originally the office of the First Methodist Church. Restoration was sponsored by the Historic Preservation Society of FWB in 1993.

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    # 8 Salvation Army Church - 1936

    by grandmaR Written Dec 23, 2005
    Walking Tour map

    Unfortunately I missed getting a picture of this church at 201 Beal Parkway S. It was originally called Grace Community Chapel and was a non-demonimational. It was purchased by the Salvation Army in 1968 after an expansion program had substantially changed the structure in 1953.

    What is pictured is the walking tour map, which shows that #8 is just south of #9. But somehow I didn't see #8.

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