DEFUNIAK SPRINGS-- If you've ever been to DeFuniak Springs you've no doubt come across the historic Hotel DeFuniak. Nearly 100 years old, it started out as a Masonic lodge. Some say the old brick building is haunted, but if you want to know for sure, maybe you should buy it.
Located on Highway 90 nostalgia is about to meet the gavel. After 12 years of ownership, Tom and Pam Hutchins say the historic hotel is about to hit the auction block.
"We've worked hard over the last few years to help build the hotel to what it is today," said Tom. "We're looking for someone who will carry the torch so to speak."
Tom and his wife Pam bought the bed and breakfast in 2003, and it's been a love affair ever since.
"We wanted it to be something where more and more people are coming to DeFuniak Springs as a destination," said Tom.
"We have met so many beautiful people (here)," said Pam. "I think that's probably the highlight."
The 12,000 square foot hotel also comes with an attached restaurant and deli.
"Many of our guests will come in and within 10 or 15 minutes they'll say, 'I feel so comfortable,'" said Tom. "We're excited to see who purchases the hotel and restaurant."
"The original plastered walls and the hallways (are) from 1934 when it was converted into a boarding house," said Tom.
The old hotel has captured the imagination of many of its guests.
"One of the friends of the hotel donated a portrait of Count Frederick DeFuniak," said Tom. "Many of our guests swear that his eyes will follow you down the hallway."
And when you walk down the hallway to room 8…
"Room 8, our haunted room. The initial (ghost) sighting was about five years ago, an event where a baby was felt crawling across the foot of the bed," said Tom. "The wife woke up first and screamed. Obviously there were no babies within the room. She was so scared she spent the night in her car. Her husband came down with a blanket and slept on the couch down in the library."
"We've had three different ghost hunters come in and set up equipment," said Pam. "They say there is definitely something here."
Ghosts or no ghosts, why an auction?
"We think that the auction will bring more buyers," said Pam.
Bidding on the 12-room hotel, which won Trip Advisor's 2015 Certificate of Excellence award, will start at $350,000, which on the surface seems pretty reasonable.
"We don't want to shut people out," said Tom.
"I'm always anxious for people to come in and experience it (the hotel)," said Pam. "If that (haunted aspect) is what they're really after, this is the place."
But after investing so much time, money and love, how will the Hutchins feel when the gavel does come down?
"You mean once we come down from jumping so high," said Tom as he laughs. "There are some mixed emotions. The ambiance is still here and the love is still here. There are just going to be different faces. I think it's going to work out great; we're excited about it."
"We'll probably come back as guests," said a laughing Pam.
"I'm not going to stay in room 8 though," said Tom as both he and Pam laugh.
The Hutchins want to retire and spend more time with their family, but say they'll stay on with the new owners to get them up to speed running the hotel.
They'll hold their second open house this Sunday. The auction is scheduled for August 23.