As the First Baptist Christian Academy prepares to move out of the old county courthouse, the Flagler County Historical Society is curating ideas for what to do with the building.
Historical Society President Ed Siarkowicz said that while nothing is set in stone, the society is preparing a presentation for the Flagler County Commission about turning the courthouse into a Flagler County history museum and learning center.
“This is a proposal; nothing has been approved,” he said. “What we’re seeking to do is to put together exhibits and collections that tell all of Flagler County’s history.”
Siarkowicz said the Flagler County Historical Society has been working on this proposal for the last four months and could be ready for the Flagler County Commission by November.
The society's members have been reaching out to other historical groups in the county — like the Friends of A1A Scenic & Historic Coastal Byway, the Flagler Beach Museum, the African American Cultural Society, and more — to involve them in building the presentation.
“We brought in as many people as we could from different areas,” Siarkowicz said. "We want to make sure that we don't get tunnel vision, and that we tell the best story possible."
Bryanna Prunk, a business manager at First Baptist Christian Academy, said the school is renovating a building at the intersection of Pine Lakes and Palm Coast Parkways, next to their church, First Baptist Church of Palm Coast, to serve as the new school building.
The Christian Academy will move out of the old courthouse in the late spring of 2025, when that school year ends, she said.
The old courthouse, located at 201 E. Moody Boulevard in Bunnell, was built in 1927. It served as the Flagler County courthouse until 1982, when cracks formed in the foundation during construction work to expand the annex, according to the Historical Society’s website. The building emptied for three years until the county shored up the foundation. In 2007, the court system shifted to a new building near the Flagler County Government Services Building complex.
Siarkowicz said the Historical Society rented a charter bus in August to drive down to the historic Polk County Courthouse, which has been turned into a history center as well. It was a great example of different exhibits that could be put together similarly in Flagler, he said.
A Flagler County museum would include exhibits ranging from prehistoric times to the eras of Native Americans, the Spanish period, and more, Siarkowicz said. It could also be a place for a genealogy library for residents.
County Commissioner Leann Pennington said she spoke to the society about the building’s potential.
“We all want it to remain a historic building,” she said. “It has a lot of meaning for a lot of people in this town.”
The county has set aside funding in the budget to review the building’s integrity and address the cracks in the foundation, she said. Ultimately, any decision on what to do with the building will be a joint decision made by the commission, and funding must be found for it, Pennington said.
For Siarkowicz, the goal is not to just make a collection of stuff for people to look at, "but to teach people that this is how people endured," he said. "This is how people overcame tragedy."
Pennington said she hopes the building and surrounding historic buildings are turned into a learning center for the county's history, arts and culture.
“I think it just makes the perfect place [for that],” she said. “I can see a lot hope and potential in that building. … I don’t ever want to see that building destroyed.”