Destin’s ‘largest artifact’: The Primrose awaits restoration

Savannah Chastain
Destin History and Fishing Museum Director, Jean Melvin stands in the indoor exhibit for the Primrose.

One of Destin’s oldest fishing boats, the Primrose, has greeted visitors to the Destin History and Fishing Museum for decades. The wooden vessel, built in 1925, was part of the original fishing fleet in the area. Captained by John W. Melvin Sr., the 36-foot seine boat was a thing of beauty in its hay day. Today, however, the Primrose sits in disrepair, weathered and disintegrating quickly due to exposure to the elements.

“It’s long overdue,” Museum Director Jean Melvin said of the boats need for restoration. “It needed to be done yesterday. We are behind the eight ball with that one.”

Melvin’s connection to the vessel is through her late husband, Captain Royal Melvin whose uncle was its captain.

“Uncle John was my father-in-law’s brother,” she said, referring to the Primrose’s captain. “He was the captain and the cook, and most all the men in Destin worked on it.”  

The vessel’s great asset to the history of Destin and its growth into the fishing industry is what makes preserving it so essential.

“It’s our largest artifact, and the last of it’s kind,” said Melvin. “The Primrose is wooden, and today all of the boats are fiberglass.”

Melvin told The Log that finding someone to restore the boat has been tough simply because of its old-world design.

“The main problem is that there is no one in the area who knows how to work on this type of boat,” she said. “Most people alive today don’t event know how to build a boat like that.”

Since its dry docking in 1968 the Primrose has been restored several times; most recently in 2004 by the late Reddin “Captain Salty” Brunson.

“Captain Salty oversaw the restoration project on behalf of the city because he really had the expertise in boat building,” said city of Destin Public Information Manager Doug Rainer.

As the owners of the boat, the city is ultimately tasked with the responsibility for its upkeep.

“We are going to start a restoration project on it soon,” said Rainer. “The city is currently working with some community partners and the museum to develop a plan to refurbish and improve the Primrose.”

Melvin told The Log that several local community partners are standing by, already committed to donating resources to project.

“We are already planning a historic park with landscaping, and a covered roof to go over the Primrose,” said Melvin.

She listed several donors mentioning that they are the reason the restoration project is possible.

“Buddy Gordon is donating tin, and will install the metal,” she said. “Charlie Smith will donate trusses, and Frank Davis will set new pilings.”  

As for the city, Rainer said he hopes to see the project underway within the month.

“In the next few weeks we will have some things in place and more details on the restoration process,” he said. “We are hoping that by sometime in May we can have it completely refurbished.”