Historical Hot Spots in South Walton
Formed in the 1820’s, Walton County is full of historical sites. Take advantage of the mild temperatures and bike-ability of the area with a visit to these historic stops.
One of the first buildings and the first church in the area, The Point Washington Methodist Church (1290 N Co Hwy 395, Santa Rosa Beach), established between 1888 and 1893, still holds services today. The historic, white-washed church building holds services every Sunday morning at 8:45 and 11:00. For more information about the church or its services visit www.pwumc.org.
A few years after The Point Washington Methodist Church was established, Simeon Strickland and his timber baron son-in-law, William Henry Wesley constructed the Wesley Home (181 Eden Gardens Road, Santa Rosa Beach) in 1897 based on the plans for the identical home that belonged to Strickland. In 1963 the home was acquired by Miss Lois Genevieve Maxon, a former reporter from New York who restored the plantation house and then gifted the home and 10 and a half acres to the state of Florida in 1968. Now the home sits on 163 acres in beautiful Eden Gardens State Park, home to the Camellia Festival. The annual festival invites visitors to stroll through the Camellia garden and grounds, tour the historic manor and interact with volunteers dressed in period attire. The event is held each February. For more information visit www.friendsofedengardens.com.
Grayton Beach was the first community established in South Walton, founded in the mid-1880s and named after Army Major Charles T. Gray. While in Grayton, you can visit the site of the first general store of the area, The White Elephant. Built by W.H. Butler and his son Van, the future founders of other South Walton communities, The White Elephant would go on to become another iconic hotspot in South Walton, The Red Bar (70 Hotz Avenue, Grayton Beach). During the height of the Grayton store, it served as a dance hall in the evenings where locals could hang out, catch up on gossip and scrawl their names as a makeshift memorial. The Red Bar reopened in 2020 after a fire in 2019. Although the original building was damaged, the original character of the establishment remains the same - complete with graffiti, eclectic posters, stickers and an assortment of funky roadside finds.
The great hurricane of 1926 washed out the foundation of Grayton Beach’s largest home at the time, but it still remains standing today! Built in 1890, the structure had several names in its early years like “The Grayton Hotel” and the “Grayton Grand” but the home has been referred to by locals as “The Wash-a-Way House” (10 Hotz Ave, Grayton Beach). Wash-a-way has since been renovated but has preserved historic elements such as the signature of a sailor from its time as Coast Guard headquarters, which can be found in one of the home’s closets.
Another historic home in the area, Shepherd Cottage (179 Defuniak St, Grayton Beach), is one of the few remaining original early cottages of “Old Grayton Beach.” The cottage has received modern updates but has maintained the original characteristics. The quaint cottage sleeps 2 and is perfect for a romantic, historic getaway in Grayton. You can learn more about this house and check its availability at www.rivardnet.com/94260.