Last week began a miniseries on the Chamber of Commerce. Today we complete it.
In 1946, a new Chamber of Commerce was organized at the Suwannee Hotel. The meeting determined that a permanent organization with a full-time, paid secretary or manager would be of considerable aid in helping develop the various resources of the County. It was made clear that the new organization would be countywide in scope. Fred J. Green became the first president, with W. P. Atwell as first vice-president, T. B. McLeran as second vice-president, H. H. Hair, Jr. as treasurer, and Louie C. Wadsworth as secretary. Many of these individuals had served on the previous iteration of the Chamber of Commerce as well.
In 1957, the Chamber of Commerce made the decision to erect a building for their expanding operations. A Building Committee met at the Gold Leaf Restaurant in Live Oak to determine a suitable structure and site. By August of the same year, a site had been donated by the Florida Power and Light Company on East Howard Street in Live Oak and plans for the building were patterned after one recently built in Belle Glade. Leo W. Dunham was selected to erect the office building, which would be of brick construction with two offices, a restroom, a workroom and a conference room. The building would also be used by numerous other organizations over the years for their board and committee meetings.
In 1958, the Chamber passed a resolution urging the Florida Board of Parks and Historic Memorials to do everything in their power to acquire the Drew Mansion in Ellaville, home to Post-Reconstruction Governor George Franklin Drew, to renovate and maintain it as part of the Suwannee River State Park. Although the mansion itself was not saved due to the extensive restoration costs, the property eventually became part of the State Park and visitors can visit the ruins of the once-magnificent structure.
The Chamber of Commerce building on Highway 90 served the Chamber for some 40 years until it became necessary to relocate. Eventually, the Chamber found its present home in the historic Old City Hall, built in 1908-1909. The former municipal building was restored using historical grants and in 2011 became the headquarters of the Chamber of Commerce.
The Suwannee County Chamber of Commerce continues to operate and expand in Suwannee County, assisting in the growth of business within the County. Chamber members are found from all walks of life. The organization provides ribbon-cutting ceremonies, regular social gatherings, and holds several other events throughout the year. One of its most popular annual events is Christmas on the Square, normally held on the first Saturday of each December but recently expanded to multiple days. This community affair, held near the Courthouse in downtown Live Oak for the past 34 years, attracts tens of thousands of people from all over the North Florida and South Georgia areas.
Join me next time for more history.
Eric Musgrove can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 386-362-0564.