The Thirty-A Review July 2020

l o c a l c u l t u r e

A Slice of History from The Smith House b y A n n e H u n t e r a n d K e l l y B u z z e t t t P h o t o g r a p h y b y J a c k G a r d n e r

A spirited mix of vintage furnishings, historic art, and charming amenities, owners Kelly and Billy Buzzett crafted The Smith House into a welcoming, guest-friendly Grayton home with Old- Florida sophistication. Originally located on a corner lot across from The Red Bar, The Smith House was built as a one-room beach cottage. Now, one of South Walton County’s great historic homes, this local treasure has been a fixture in Grayton Beach for the last 95 years. Built in 1925 by Tuff and Alline Smith, the house is constructed from rough-sawn cypress that was salvaged from a ship that caught fire and sank off of Grayton in the Gulf of Mexico. “As the story is told,” Kelly explains, “the lumber from this ship lined the beaches from Seagrove to Blue Mountain. Mr. W.H. Butler, one of the original Grayton residents, used a horse-drawn wagon to collect the wood, which he then provided to family and friends so that they could build their beach homes.” The roof rafters in the living area and kitchen of The Smith House are blackened by burns from the ship fire, where a charred wooden oar also hangs. Tuff and Alline Smith lived in DeFuniak Springs full-time while spending as much time as they could in Grayton. Tuff ’s father, Percy Warren Smith, had first visited the area looking for a new home for his family—someplace far from the hard, cold winters of South Dakota. One of his early visits to the area, in 1898, included a long camping trip to Grayton Beach. He later told his children about the wild and desolate beauty of Grayton Beach, which must have impressed young Tuff. In 1903, the family moved to DeFuniak Springs, where Tuff ’s father became a prosperous merchant and dairy farmer. The Smiths both loved to fish and were well known for their fishing abilities. They also loved dogs and always brought one or two to the beach. Tuff wrote poetry and

When the Smiths originally built the house, they would travel to Grayton from DeFuniak Springs using a sandy trail, decades before Scenic Highway 30A was constructed. On several occasions, Tuff and Alline missed the turn-off and ended up in Seagrove Beach, where they would have to travel across the dunes to get to Grayton. Tuff took preventative measures by hand-painting a sign that said “Grayton Beach” and nailing it to a tree at the place where a traveler would turn south to get to the beach. That sign welcomed and guided travelers for many years until it was no longer needed, and Tuff erected it at the Smith House. After Tuff ’s death, Alline

continued to enjoy the house, but in the early 1990s she sold it to an old family friend and Grayton regular, Richard Stafford, after mak- ing him and his wife Carol promise to never tear it down or change it substantially. In 1995, after Hurricane Opal flooded much of Grayton, Richard and Carol moved the Smith House to its pres- ent location on Defuniak Street to protect it from

future storms. True to their word, the Staffords preserved its original condition, adding glass to the window openings, shoring up the sagging roofline with large cypress beams, and covering the interior walls with board and batten style “sinker” cypress sawn from giant cypress logs that were salvaged from the bottom of the Choctawhatchee River. When its third owners, Kelly and Billy Buzzett, purchased the Smith House in 2009, they continued to preserve the historical legacy of the Grayton Beach cottage. Over time Kelly and Billy added contemporary touches while staying true to the original style of the house. They added a modern kitchen, updated the bathroom, and converted part of the long, screened porch into a cozy bunk room. The Buzzetts cherish the Smith House and plan on sharing its vintage charms for many years to come.

was a self-taught artist. In fact, one of his paintings (an abstract rendering of a seahorse) and several of his drawings and etchings hang in The Smith House today, along with a copy of one of his untitled poems from 1930, in which he eulogizes a favorite dog.

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