The City of Fort Walton Beach Heritage Park and Cultural Center is a museum complex that includes 5 different museums onsite: the Indian Temple Mound Museum, the Fort Walton Temple Mound, the Camp Walton Schoolhouse Museum, the Garnier Post Office Museum, and the Civil War Exhibits.
Together, these fascinating museums paint a picture of history and culture in Fort Walton Beach and Northwest Florida dating as far back as 14,000 B.C.E. to the 1950s, giving you and your guests an in depth, interactive education on how Fort Walton Beach came to be as it is today. Read on below for more information on this Florida cultural center!
Dive into Fort Walton Beach’s Local History, Heritage, and Culture
Visiting each one of the 5 museums at this Florida cultural center allows guests to delve into each aspect of Fort Walton Beach’s local and regional history, from its prehistoric time as a Native American migration and village location, to its role in the Civil War, to the beginning of its modern-day tourism and military prowess in the 1940s and 1950s.
For history buffs (or those who are simply curious) who love learning about Native American culture and seeing the artifacts these ancient civilizations left behind, the Fort Walton Temple Mound and the Indian Temple Mound Museum are excellent museums to start your tour at. They are also the museums and exhibits that cover the oldest parts of Fort Walton Beach’s culture and history, if you’re inclined to plan your exhibit path in chronological order.
Visit the Civil War Exhibits to get an idea of how Fort Walton Beach was affected by the Civil War, and visit the Garnier Post Office Museum and the Camp Walton Schoolhouse Museum for a portrayal and depiction of everyday life in Fort Walton Beach (even before it was named Fort Walton Beach).
Garnier Post Office Museum Specifics
The Garnier Post Office Museum is a mesmerizing stop for those particularly interested in life in this area between 1918 and 1956. The museum highlights the history of Mr. Euphrates A. Mooney who was postmaster of the original Garnier Post Office dating back to 1906. During that time, the post office was situated on Garnier’s Bayou beach. This location was deserted in 1918 when the new structure was built at the intersection of Garnier Post Road and Mooney Road. When Mr. Mooney passed away in 1935, his wife Julia took over as postmaster and held this role for 28-years. During this time, Julia Mooney put extensive time and effort into making sure the people of current Fort Walton Beach received the letters and mail they were waiting for. This process required mail to come by boat from Pensacola and travel six miles over land from Mary Esther. From here, it would be boated to Boggy Bayou and dropped off before returning the following morning. In order to ensure successful delivery, Julia Mooney would need to paddle out to Camp Pinchot Road and to the Bayou to get the mail to distribute.
Eventually, mail delivery via postal carrier was introduced, reducing the necessity for the traditional post office. Julia Mooney passed away in 1956, but her legacy and effort were well engrained into the history of Fort Walton Beach. In 1986, the Garnier Post Office was transferred to an area behind the Camp Walton Schoolhouse Museum. It was fully restored by The Junior Service League of Fort Walton Beach with an opening ceremony held on May 1, 1988. The Garnier Post Office was moved once again in January of 2006 to its current location. At this time, it was fully integrated into the City of Fort Walton Beach Heritage Park and Cultural Center. A stop by gives visitors a chance to not only appreciate the human efforts and stories behind the post office, but to understand how it’s integrated into the area’s historic culture as well.
Schoolhouse Museum Visits
Making your way through the Camp Walton Schoolhouse Museum is both engaging and educational. This historic two-room building still hosts artifacts and furnishings that would have been vital to the school’s success when it was open between 1911 and the 1930s. While it’s been moved from its original location across the street from the Chamber of Commerce on Main Street, this incredible museum still tells an authentic and engaging story to visitors. At the time of its opening in 1912, 15 students attended classes in a place that hosted eight grades in total with only 1 teacher on site. By 1927, the second room was added to accommodate students in grades 9-12 with a second teacher available to help with instruction. Today, stepping inside this museum is truly an experience that allows you to step into the educational realm of the past!
The Heritage Park and Cultural Center is open Tuesday through Saturday except for major holidays, with hours between 10:00am – 3:00pm.