Walton County Heritage Museum
Walton County Heritage Museum is the only museum serving the entire county and is a trusted repository for artifacts, photographs, and documents related to life in Walton County, principally 1885-1945.
In March 1881, the Pensacola and Atlantic Railroad was chartered by the Florida legislature to construct a track from Pensacola in Escambia County to Chattahoochee in Gadsden County. The 170-mile track was completed in 1883. In July 1885, it was fully incorporated into the Louisville and Nashville system. In 1971, the Louisville and Nashville Railroad became a subsidiary of Seaboard Coastline Railroad, and the last train stopped at DeFuniak Springs that April. The Louisville and Nashville merged into Seaboard in 1982 and, in 1986, Seaboard and the Chessie System merged to form CSX Transportation, the current line that runs freight trains through DeFuniak Springs.
The Walton County Heritage Museum building was one of three buildings that once comprised the DeFuniak Springs railroad station. This was the passenger depot which, during segregation, was separated into the white waiting area, which is now the entry room to the museum, and the black waiting area, which is our current meeting room on the east side. The first depot was in place by 1885, and it was replaced by the current building in 1889. Alterations to the depot were made in 1910 and 1911. To the east of this building, where the caboose now sits, was the Railway Express building. The large freight depot was across the railroad tracks from the caboose, where the parking area is now.
The Walton County Heritage Museum is located on Circle Drive across from Lake DeFuniak. The lake is approximately 250 feet above sea level at one of the highest points in Florida. It measures nearly one mile in circumference and is over sixty feet deep. It is said to be one of two naturally round lakes in the world, the other supposedly in Switzerland (not confirmed). It has been a place of legend and lore since its discovery by the Indians. Sam Story, one of the first Indians to welcome the white settlers, claimed to have seen a fireball fall from the sky, thus creating the lake. The more likely explanation is that is it a large sinkhole. When DeFuniak Springs was founded in the early 1880s, spas and minerals springs were popular throughout the country, so the potential healing powers of Lake DeFuniak were often used to entice visitors.