The Gulfview Hotel — the city’s oldest building — will be moved from its current location at 12 Miracle Strip Parkway S.E. to 115 Miracle Strip Parkway S.E. to reopen as the Fort Walton Beach Welcome Center.
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FORT WALTON BEACH — The 112-year-old Gulfview Hotel had made it to about 25 feet from U.S. Highway 98 and was awaiting some utility line relocations shortly after 9 p.m. Tuesday.
Hundreds of people who looked like a parade crowd lined the road in anticipation of the wood-framed, roughly 5,500-square-foot building getting squared away onto U.S. 98 and pointed toward its new home about a quarter-mile to the east at the city-owned parking lot next to Harris Insurance Services.
Moving the historic building the rest of the way might take a few hours, said Brian Johnson of Ducky Johnson House Movers of Marianna.
Once the move is completed, city officials will reopen U.S. 98, which was closed between Beal Parkway and Florida Place for the relocation.
Late last week, workers from Ducky Johnson House Movers placed remote-controlled hydraulic power dollies under the old hotel, which had been resting several feet above the ground on I-beams and blocks at its original site at 12 Miracle Strip Parkway S.E.
The move from its original spot to next to U.S. 98 earlier Tuesday was very slow, like the pace of getting a space shuttle in place, said Fort Walton Beach resident Eleanor Jones, who was on hand for the event.
"I’ve lived here since 1982, and I didn’t know that building even existed," she said while admiring the old hotel about 8 p.m.
At its new site, the building will include a welcome center operated by the Okaloosa County Tourist Development Department, a retail shop operated by the Greater Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce, space for the William Augustus Bowles ("Billy Bowlegs") Museum and leased office and meeting space.
The old hotel was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992. The building was constructed as a fishing and hunting lodge in 1906 and operated as a hotel from 1913-1986.
A National Park Service report about the 1992 listing of the Gulfview on the National Register stated the building "is significant in the area of commerce as the only hotel in Fort Walton Beach which remains from the community’s early days as a tourist destination."
The report also states that the building has social history significance as "an early center of community cultural events" and "the site of the first Roman Catholic services conducted in Fort Walton, which resulted in the construction of the community’s first church in 1914."
"I’m just so glad to see it moved and preserved in the community," Cissy Wyninegar, whose family had managed the hotel for decades, said Tuesday as she waited near the Gulfview. "It’s a blessing to me that it will be right there (in its new spot) where we can see it."
In January 2017, the City Council accepted the donation of the old hotel from its previous owners, Tom and Nicole Rothrauff and the Wyninegar family. The Rothrauffs plan to build their new home on the old hotel’s original site.
"I think the crowd expresses my feeling," said Nicole Rothrauff, Wyinegar's stepdaughter. "It’s amazing support. It’s phenomenal."
The city has $300,000 in Community Redevelopment Agency money to pay to move the structure, set it up, make various repairs and upgrades and perform other tasks. The chamber has pledged to provide $50,000 from various donors for the overall project.