In last month’s History Mystery we discovered that Tyler and Ida Calhoun were the first retirees to settle in Destin. They arrived in November 1931 and purchased the house that was originally built by Leonard Destin, the founder of the fishing village of Destin.
Tyler Calhoun, and his wife Ida, saw the potential for development for the inland land in the village of Destin. The sugar-white beaches, turquoise waters, and abundant fishing would be easy to promote, they reasoned. State Road 115, U.S. Highway 98, also known as the Gulf Coast Highway, was being built and would likely come through Destin. Initially, U.S. Route 98 began in Apalachicola and ended at Pensacola, U.S. 98 begins at Palm Beach, travels across the state of Florida to the Gulf Coast, then up the west side of Florida, across the panhandle through the gulf coast of Alabama, on to Washington, Mississippi, and ends at the Mississippi River.
Calhoun knew that if a federal highway came through Destin, it would connect Destin with Panama City to the east and Camp Walton and Pensacola to the west. More importantly, if there were to be a highway, there would be a need for a bridge to go over East Pass, and it would connect Destin with Santa Rosa Island and Camp Walton. Tyler Calhoun owned a car (probably the only person to own a car in Destin at the time) and knew what automobile travel could do if proper roads were in place. He believed that U.S. Route 98 would bring new families to Destin and that the area was in for rapid expansion when the road and bridge were completed in 1936.
J.R. Moody, the owner of Vernon Land and Timber Company, had purchased the majority of the land in Destin for his turpentine business. The War Department sold him 5,783.09 acres (97 percent of the land in Destin) on April 25, 1935, for $38,226.22 or $6.61 an acre. Less than two months later, on June 1, 1935, Tyler Calhoun entered into a land contract with J.R. Moody to purchase the interior land from the west end of Joe’s Bayou to the new bridge that was being built at the new East Pass around to the west end of old East Pass. Today this would be all of the land east of Benning Drive to the Marler Bridge, excluding all of the waterfront land. The 547 acres of inland land that Tyler Calhoun agreed to buy from J. R. Moody cost him $5,000 or $9.14 per acre. But Calhoun did not exactly have the $5,000, so a deal was struck.
In the contract, Calhoun agreed to pay Moody $5,000 in installments of $500 each. The first $500 was paid at the execution of the contract. The balance of $4,500 would be paid in nine equal payments of $500 each on Dec. 1 and June 1 beginning on Dec. 1, 1935, with interest at 6 percent per annum. While it was important to Calhoun to have time to pay the remaining $4,500, there was another clause in the contract that would make the deal foolproof.
Tyler Calhoun was able to sell lots if he paid 90 percent of the purchase price directly to the Vernon Land & Timber Company toward the payment of his debt. J.R. Moody agreed to sign over lots to the purchasers with a clear title prior to Calhoun actually paying Moody the entire $4,500. This was a deal maker as it gave Calhoun the ability to sell lots and provide clear title to each purchaser. Calhoun did not have to worry about his payment obligation, as long as he turned over 90 percent of the purchase proceeds to Moody.
Next, Tyler Calhoun worked toward establishing a subdivision on his newly purchased property. T.W. Coleman, the holder of Florida’s Surveyor’s Certificate No. 39, surveyed the property on the very same month Calhoun purchased it, June 1935. His plat for Calhoun Subdivision was approved by the Okaloosa County Commissioners on Oct. 3, 1935.
Once Tyler Calhoun had surveyed the land, platted his subdivision, and registered it with the county, he went to work building roads and selling lots. Each of the deeds to the properties was also signed by J. R. Moody and Corine Moody. As the developer of the Calhoun Subdivision, he got to choose the name for the roads and you guessed it. He named the road in front of his house Calhoun Avenue.
Land sales were so good for Tyler and Ida Calhoun that they were able to satisfy the balance of their $4,500 obligation to J.R. Moody in just two years instead of the five years they had agreed to. On Feb. 15, 1937, Moody signed a warranty deed releasing the Calhouns’ obligation to Moody. While the Vernon Land & Timber Company released the land, Moody retained the rights “to work the timber for turpentine or other purposes and to cut and remove the same until June 1, 1941.”
As the first real estate developer of Destin, Tyler Calhoun was selling lots and making money with his Calhoun Subdivision. On March 31, 1938, Calhoun established a trust agreement so that upon his death, the land he owned in the Calhoun Subdivision would be divided among his wife Ida and his five children. He continued to control the trust but listed his wife and children as parties of the trust as follows: Ida R. Calhoun, Dorothy C. Winton, Alice C. Cox, Corine C. Bailey, Maria C. Winton, and Tyler Calhoun Jr.
While Tyler and Ida Calhoun came to Destin in late 1931 to retire, they saw an opportunity to grow with Destin. They developed all of the interior lots of what was then the village of Destin. They came out of retirement to become Destin’s first land developers. They also named the road they lived on Calhoun Avenue. Soon the Captain Leonard Destin Park will be built on the land that once was owned by Tyler and Ida Calhoun at 101 Calhoun Avenue.
Tyler and Ida Calhoun were the first retirees to settle in Destin. Today there are thousands of retirees that have found out what a beautiful city Destin is to live in. In the winter, thousands more retirees (we affectionately call them Snowbirds) arrive to spend their winter in Destin. Tyler Calhoun was also the first Realtor (he spelled it Realter) in Destin. Today there are hundreds of realtors selling and reselling homes and condominiums, as the vacant land is just about all gone.
NOTE: Tyler and Ida Calhoun’s daughter, Ida R. Calhoun, was the first editor of the Destin Weekly Log when it was first published in January 1974.
H. C. “Hank” Klein is a Destin historian, author, and speaker. He visits often and lives in North Little Rock, Arkansas with his wife (the former Muriel Marler of Destin). Klein recently published two Destin history books - DESTIN Pioneer Settlers...A Land History of Destin, Florida from 1819-1940 and DESTIN’S Founding Father…The Untold Story of Leonard Destin. Both can be obtained from Amazon.com, Tony Mennillo of Arturo Studios at 850/585-2909, The Destin History & Fishing Museum, Dewey Destin's Restaurants in Destin, the Magnolia Grill in Fort Walton Beach, and Sundog Books in Seaside. Klein can be contacted directly at email@example.com.