7 Chautauqua Art Department

information panel in front of an octagon-shaped one-story cottage

GPS: 1264 Circle Drive, DeFuniak Springs, FL 32435. 

The following is exact wording printed on interpretive panel #7 on the self-guided walking tour of the Florida Chautauqua resort/campus grounds opened in 1885 in DeFuniak Springs, Florida. This interpretive panel displays the history of the Chautauqua Art Department on the grounds.

The original octagon-shaped portion of this structure was built as the Florida Chautauqua Art Department during the first year of the Florida Chautauqua Assembly. Teachers educated guests in all medians of art during the Chautauqua season. It’s octagon-shaped structure inspired the design of a three-sided fireplace at the center of the octagon which heats the three original rooms.

The Chautauqua Art Department was also used for kindergarten classes, as were other locations on these grounds, making the Florida Chautauqua resort/campus the earliest known organized kindergarten in the state of Florida.

In 1906, Florida Chautauqua Superintendent Kenneth Bruce converted the Chautauqua Art Department into this cottage while his home on the grounds was being built. When his home was completed, his father (Wallace Bruce, the longest-serving president of the Florida Chautauqua Association) suffered a stroke and moved into this cottage where he died in 1914.

The home has had only five owners since that time, and each family has left some of their original furniture in the home. Descendants of the Wallace Bruce family have contributed original furniture belonging to Wallace and son Kenneth to compliment today’s visits.

Proceed to interpretive panel #8.

  • By Christopher Mitchell
  • Historical Research by Robert Daniel and Dennis & Brenda Ray
  • Grant funding by the Florida Division of Historical Resources