It was recently announced that Destin will soon get its first high school. The high school will be housed in a former church building. In our History Mystery this month we will explore Destin’s first school and learn that church services were also held in that school building over a century ago.
The first church and school building in Destin was completed in September 1906. The building was 30-foot-by-60-foot in size and could accommodate 75 to 100 people. It was located where the Clement Taylor Park is located today at 131 Calhoun Avenue in Destin.
The first church service was held in the school building nearly 113 years ago, on Sunday, Sept. 2, 1906, and the first day of school was the following day, Monday, Sept. 3, 1906. Approximately 30 children with ages ranging from 5 to 10 years old were in attendance at that first school year. Clement Taylor, Uncle Billy (William T. Marler) and Elisha Marler acted as the school’s first teachers.
In the 1930s, the land in Destin was made available for sale by the War Department. The Okaloosa Board of Public Instruction purchased the land where the school had been located for over 25 years. Lot 14 of Moreno Point contained 3.71 acres and was purchased for $185.50 or $50 an acre. The first schoolhouse closed in 1956 when the current Destin Elementary School was opened on 630 Kelly Street.
The author’s wife, Muriel (Marler) Klein, attended the one-room schoolhouse through the eighth grade. After the eighth grade, Destin children were bused to Choctawhatchee High School to finish their high school education. The first Choctawhatchee High School was located in Shalimar where Clifford Meigs Middle School is located today at 150 Richbourg Avenue.
Eighth grade graduating classes were small back then at Destin Elementary. The 1948 graduating class featured only eight students. Seven were boys and there was one girl, Barbara Brunson, who graduated that year.
A lot has changed in Destin since the first schoolhouse was built in 1906 to house both Destin’s local church and school. Soon children will no longer need to be bused to Fort Walton Beach for their high school education and will be able to receive that education right here in Destin at a former church building.
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’S Founding Father…The Untold Story of Leonard Destin and DESTIN Pioneer Settlers...A Land History of Destin, Florida from 1819-1940. Both can be obtained from Amazon.com, The Destin History & Fishing Museum, in Destin, The Indian Temple Mound in Fort Walton Beach, Magnolia House Gifts at Grand Boulevard, and Sundog Books in Seaside. Klein can be contacted directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.