The Destin Community Center is located on the corner of Zerbe Street and Stahlman Avenue, a location that couldn't be more appropriate since Zerbe Street's namesake played a pivotal role in planning Destin's first Community Center.
The street is named after Frederick “Fred” Kolb Zerbe. Fred was born on March 28, 1879, in Pennsylvania and graduated from Syracuse University in 1909. In 1910, he married Donalda Cameron Rice in 1910 and they made their home in Syracuse, New York, according to information found at the Destin History and Fishing Museum.
In 1912, Fred became the superintendent of the Syracuse Boys’ Club, which is now known as the Boys & Girls Clubs of Syracuse, where he became known as the “man with the plans” after his adamant pleading to get a bigger building for the club. He was also elected as Syracuse, New York’s “Man of the Year” in 1936.
During a trip to New Orleans, the Zerbe’s visited Destin after learning about land that was going to be auctioned at Moreno Point. They fell in love with the area and purchased a lot from the Vernon Land and Lumber Company in 1935. The Zerbes intended to make Destin their retirement home but Fred’s health made it necessary for them to move sooner than expected. With the help of Elisha Marler, Fred built his home and the family moved to Destin in 1936.
In April 1946, the Zerbe’s went back to Syracuse for a Boys’ Club event and an article in The Post-Standard said he “looked just as he had when he left in September, 1937, with the becoming addition of a Florida tan.” In the same article, Zerbe described the beaches of Destin by saying,“The sand is pure snow white. The blue waters turn the most gorgeous shades of aqua.” He also mentioned how the sleepy fishing village was quickly becoming the “Rivera of the Gulf” and was being publicized by the state of Florida.
Fred continued his social work in Destin, helping lead the plans to construct a Destin Community Center as the secretary-treasurer of the Destin Community House Association in 1944. The original building was completed in 1947 and became the center of government, since Destin wasn’t incorporated until 1984. In a November 1981 article in The Destin Log, reporter Karen MacGrogan said, “within its doors and grounds, thousands of villagers have danced, laughed, dined, argued, planned, raised money and struggled to solve Destin’s problems, large and small.” In 1940, he opened a library in a room of the Presbyterian Church on Calhoun Ave and his wife served as a chairman of the board. In 1947, the library relocated to the second floor of the old Destin Community Center before moving to its own building on Stahlman Avenue in 1966. In 2001, the groundbreaking for the current library building on Sibert Avenue kicked off construction and the old building on Stalhman Avenue became the Destin History and Fishing Museum in 2005.
On Oct. 4, 1962, Fred died at the age of 83. His wife, Donalda, passed away shortly after on March 9, 1963, at the age of 78. According to records at the Destin History and Fishing Museum, it doesn't appear that they had any children or relatives in the area.
"Like many of those older families that visited, vacationed, and lived here, their families were typically grown and living their own lives when their parents settled in Destin," wrote Kathy Marler Blue, executive director of the museum, in an email to The Log.
Records at the museum from 1953 show that Zerbe Street was originally called First Street. No records could be found to determine when its name was changed.