'He was a good guy'

Sheri Kotzum | 315-4353 | @DestinLogSheri | skotzum@thedestinlog.com
Calhoun Avenue intersects Sibert Avenue on the west side of Destin. Sibert Ave's namesake, Major General Franklin Sibert, named Calhoun Avenue to show construction workers how to get to the Army rest camp site. Tyler Calhoun ended up naming a street after his friend to "pay him back." [SHERI KOTZUM/THE LOG]

Calhoun Avenue follows the Choctawhatchee Bay on the west side of Destin. You can find Clement Taylor Park, Dewey Destin's Seafood Restaurant and the First Presbyterian Church of Destin located on that street. The street plays a big role in getting around old Destin, just as its namesake played a vital role in its development.

In 1931, while the Great Depression was in full force, Tyler Calhoun decided to close his lime, rock and asphalt business to retire with his wife, Ida. They had vacationed in Florida many times over the years but had never been to the panhandle. With their eight children already grown and out on their own, the Calhoun’s left their home in Nashville, traveled to Boggy Bayou and arrived in Destin at the age of 65 years old.

Leonard Destin’s grandson, Leonard Woodward, had bought the original 6.4 acres of the Leonard Destin property from the war department for $342 in 1930. When the Calhoun’s moved to Destin, they bought 3.4 acres of that property, which included the Leonard Destin house, for $1,500.

“I think one of the things he was doing, why he paid $1,500 for it, was trying to ingratiate himself to the locals,” said Destin historian Hank Klein. “Here’s an outsider coming in to retire, not a fisherman. I think he was trying to be a good guy, and he was a good guy.”

Moving in proved to be a bit of a challenge as the small staircase in the two-story home was only two feet wide. According to an article in The Banner, a local newspaper at the time, the Calhoun’s had to remove a window on the upper level and hoist up some of the larger pieces of furniture with a “block and tackle.”

The quiet retirement life didn’t last long for Tyler. The War Department was selling land, roads were being built and construction of the Marler Bridge was complete in 1935. That same year, the owner of Vernon Land and Timber Company, J.R. Moody, bought 5,783 acres of inland property in Destin, which is most of the property covered by the city today. Two months later, Tyler purchased the land from the west end of Joe’s Bayou to the Marler Bridge, a total of 547 acres, from Moody.

“He came to retire and just happened to be here at the right time,” Klein said. “He saw the handwriting on the wall that this could be something beyond a fishing village.”

With his background in civil engineering and road construction, Tyler Calhoun went to work selling lots, establishing subdivisions and building roads, becoming Destin’s first real estate developer and realtor. As a result of his success in Destin, Tyler established a trust agreement that would divide the land he owned among his wife and children.

Calhoun was also a generous man, donating land and promoting Destin whenever he could. He donated four acres of land for a Community Center, two acres for an athletic field and tracts of land for both the First Presbyterian and the First Baptist Churches, according to information at the Destin History and Fishing Museum. When the Destin Fishing Rodeo started in 1948, he also contributed to the grand prize for as long as he lived.

“When he was alive and the Fishing Rodeo started, the prize was a lot of land that he gave away, so he was a good guy,” Klein said.

Ida Calhoun died in 1944, waiting for her sons to return from World War II. They all came home safely and her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren have lived or vacationed in Destin at one time or another.

Tyler passed away in 1953. Part of the land they owned will soon become Leonard Destin Park, located on the street named after them, Calhoun Avenue.

Streets. They get us from point A to point B. They connect thousands of cities through all 50 states. But have you ever stopped to wonder about how a street got it’s name? Streets like Dolphin Street or Starfish Avenue are self-explanatory enough, but what about the streets named after people? What are their stories? Over the next few months, we’re going to take you through a series about Destin’s streets and how they got their names.