DeFuniak Springs is a town with a long and eventful history, and the town still retains some of its historic values today, making it a popular vacation spot of history aficionados. Not much is documentented before the year of 1881, when the Florida State Legislature the Pensacola and Atlantic Railroad, but DeFuniak Springs is known to be the home of Native Americans before this time. After setting out from Pensacola, a survey crew stopped by an open area with a large, round lake. The survey crewed camped on the shores of this lake, and the leader of the group, W.D. Chipley, decided that the spot would make for a lovely town and that the trees should not but cut, but that the train would actually make a stop at this soon to be town. It was at this point that the town had officially been named Lake DeFuniak after the president of the Pensacola and Atlantic Railroad, but the name would soon change to what we know it as today, DeFuniak Springs.
Chipley and a few of his associates worked to turn the undeveloped area into a small railroad stop, and then worked to turn the stop into a small but cozy town. To begin growing the railroad stop into the town we know today, Chipley and his associates began selling real estate in hopes to grow the town in both businesses and in population. One of the associates was able to meet with the leaders of Chautauqua, and he returned to DeFuniak Springs to assemble the Florida Chautauqua Association, where it would operate and keep its doors open for more than fifty years, and do its part in helping grown the town. During the time that the Florida Chautauqua Association stayed open, a free college to educate teachers operated in DeFuniak Springs, drawing in teachers and educators to get their degrees and start teaching at schools. McCormick University was also built in DeFuniak Springs, until a hurricane tragically destroyed the building and it was rebuilt elsewhere. Palmer College also had opened in DeFuniak springs for 29 years. With many other schools coming to fruition at this time, including the Florida Teachers Association, DeFuniak Springs was known as the center for education in the south.
Florida’s very first Arbor Day celebration happened in DeFuniak Springs, were members of the community planted trees upon the shore of Lake DeFuniak, back in 1885. It is even believed that some of the trees that were planted on that Arbor day many years ago still stand tall today.
The town of DeFuniak Springs has had a colorful and rich history, and many of the buildings retain their classic, vintage look today. To experience the history of DeFuniak, stay in a beautiful DeFuniak Hotel to not only learn about history, but to fully experience it, too.