Restoration of the old Lakeside Hospital at 1290 Circle Drive is underway by the board of directors of the Florida Chautauqua Association. The first phase of the project started June 26 with the removal of rotten wood and repair of joists and rafters. The $140,000 phase I project also includes installation of metal roofing material over the hospital section along with new fascia and gutters to stop water intrusion. Paul Rushing is the restoration project’s general contractor.

Lakeside Hospital was opened as a one-story clinic in 1939. A second story was added and opened in 1949 to become a two-story hospital. The original 1949 elevator is believed to be the first operating elevator between Tallahassee and Pensacola and is still in working order with all original parts dated 1949, the year it was installed.

Once the phase I restoration project started, volunteer Shirley Carroll and board member/project coordinator Christopher Mitchell have been removing old carpeting throughout the structure. 

“We’re delighted to learn that much of the original tile on both floors are intact,” says Mitchell. “We didn’t know what we would find, but this new revelation means we can proceed with further restoration plans now that we know where some rooms were originally located which many locals remember.”  

Mitchell says the original floor reveals the location of certain walls removed decades ago to make certain areas larger.  

“We now see where the pharmacy was once located on the first floor, and a hallway which led from the lobby to Dr. Spires office,” he added. Ralph Spires, MD, founded Lakeside Clinic in 1939. “We also found original wood floors in Dr. Edgar Myers’ office on the first floor with no evidence that the floor ever had tile over it.”

“Unfortunately, that floor is not in good shape, but an expert floor restorer should be able to give some advice on the feasibility of keeping all of the original wood floor or simply replacing it.”

The original wards for black males and females prior to integration are still intact in the ambulance bay area. General Contractor Paul Rushing feels that metal donated to the Florida Chautauqua Association a few years ago by Freeport Metal may be enough to cover the ambulance bay immediately once the roof over that section of the building is demolished.

“We didn’t contract with Rushing to take on that additional effort once the ambulance bay roof was demolished, so you can only imagine how grateful our board and community are for Rushing’s generous offer to attempt such a project to save that portion of the building,” Mitchell says. “We are also grateful to Freeport Metal for their signification contribution to this project.”

Mitchell is working with various foundations and state agencies to investigate ways to secure grants and major funding to upgrade all electrical, plumbing and sprinkler systems in stages throughout the entire building. Plans are also underway to turn the ambulance bay area into a museum for Florida Chautauqua history and the first floor of the hospital as a display of Lakeside Hospital history showing photographs and exhibiting relics relating to the clinic/hospital history. 

Mitchell is encouraging anyone with photos taken inside Lakeside from 1939 to 1972 to contact him at (850) 419-5578.  Photos will be scanned to become a permanent part of Lakeside’s history. Mitchell is also seeking former staff of the hospital to contact him regarding layout of the pharmacy and to answer questions relating to the nursing station on the second floor for future restoration plans.

The $140,000 Phase I project is expected to be complete by August. Further information will be available on the Lakeside Building Restoration Project’s Facebook page.