In 1957-1958, a gymnasium was finally built offsite for the new Smith-Brown School, 340 S. Orange Ave., which had been constructed in 1946. Students walked between the two sites. Under Florida’s “separate but equal” segregation laws, Arcadia’s African-American students attended this school until it was closed in 1970.
At a special meeting on Feb. 2, 1956, the Board of Public Instruction of DeSoto County approved the purchase price of $6,000 for the subdivision known as “Farley Park” offered by Edgel Farley. He and his wife Bonetta—a nurse’s aide at G. Pierce Wood Memorial Hospital— lived in the rear of 814 S. Orange Ave., and his mother Martha D. lived in the front of the house with her son Tift B., a grove worker, and his wife Virgina B. Farley.
On June 23, 1953, Bonetta and Edgel W. Farley recorded the “Farley Park” subdivision, as surveyed by M. E. Albritton, in Plat Book 6. They named the east-west street dividing lots 1 through 20 from lots 21 through 34 “Carver Drive,” presumably to honor George Washington Carver; however it was never constructed.
On Feb. 28, 1944, Alfred O. “Al” Carnahan and Beulah Marie Carnahan had sold the property to Edgel Farley plus his parents Charles L. and Martha Farley, as recorded in Deed Book 245.
Born in Michigan in 1902, Al Carnahan moved to Arcadia in 1927. He owned and operated a barber shop at 22 N Polk Ave. In 1943, he leased the shop to E. J. Hood and started a dairy near his home on S. Orange Avenue.
The May 3, 1945, Arcadian reported “a new Arcadia institution” near the intersection of State Roads 70 and 31—Carnahan Dairy. The article details that “the building is a modern one in every respect. In the front are rooms for the various operations in handling milk, cooling, bottling, etc., with a 6’ x 10’ refrigerating room, a feed room large enough to hold feed in carlots, a wash room, shower baths, and in the back is a milking room with stanchions to hold twenty cows at a time.”
On his way to a meeting of the dairy association, Al Carnahan was was killed in a car accident in 1950. His obituary, published in the Aug. 17 Arcadian, stated that he owned “DeSoto County’s only commercial dairy.”
Plans for the new “gymnatorium”—a combination gymnasium and auditorium—were approved at the board meeting of April 10, 1956.
At their July 20, 1956, meeting, the Board of Public Instruction for DeSoto County announced that Richard Bowers had been hired to teach physical education. At the Jan. 29, 1957, meeting his request to be released from his contract was approved, although the reason was not given until the May 12, 1959, meeting: he returned from military leave and was reappointed to the staff in 1958.
To provide access to the Smith-Brown gym, a complicated property trade was explained at the Feb. 2, 1957, meeting. Lot 6, Washington Park, was “owned by the Morrisons, and they will not sell unless it is possible to secure a lot of the same size which is near to their present one. The Martins, owner of Lot 9, Washington Park, agreed to sell for $600 .... Therefore, Lot 9 was purchased from the Martins with the deed being written to the Morrisons and the latter issued their deed to the Board.”
Deed Book 266 records that on Feb. 11, 1957, Ozel Martin and his wife Ludell Martin sold Lot 9, Washington Park, to Henry Morrison and his wife Tommie Mae Morrison, and page 217 records that Henry Morrison and his wife, Tommie Mae Morrison, sold Lot 6, Washington Park, to the board. Lot 6 became School Avenue, but was not listed in the Arcadia city directory until 1972.
In the 1956 Arcadia city directory, the Morrisons lived at 341 S. Orange Ave., and Henry is listed as a “fruit picker.” The Martins lived at 20 Watson Ave., and Ozel is listed as a “helper” at Arcadia Motors.
On Dec. 7, 1943, Washington Park had been subdivided by Elsie P. and M. A. Rosin, according to Plat Book 6. Washington Park lots 1 through 26 are south of Harris Street, and lots 27 through 48 are divided from lots 49 through 70 by a north-south street the Rosins named “Booker T. Washington Road.” The street was the namesake of Booker Taliaferro Washington, born 1856—an educator, reformer, president and main founder of Tuskegee University, and an African-American leader until his death in 1915.
At the March 12, 1957, meeting, the board approved an additional site for the Smith-Brown School purchased from Oscar E. Herren and his wife Betty M. Herren, as recorded on Dec. 14, 1957, in Deed Book 267. Now known as Louis C. Anderson Park, the property’s southern border is Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. Charles Washington remembered that he learned to play baseball at the diamond located there.
On Dec. 16, 1957, the Herrens bought the property from Beulah Marie Levsky, formerly Beulah Marie Carnahan, and her husband Morris H. Levsky, according to Deed Book 267. The sale include “20 head of Jersey Dairy cows.” The Herrens are listed in the 1956 city directory with their home and a dairy at the intersection of W. Hargrave (now Dr. MLK Jr. Blvd.) and S. Orange Ave. Sometime before 1960 they closed the dairy, as Oscar is listed as a “factory worker” at the Central Transformer Corp.
At the Aug. 11, 1959, meeting, the Board of Public Instruction “approved cooperation with the City of Arcadia in efforts to provide recreational facilities in south-west Arcadia and approved placing of recreational facilities on the board-owned site at Smith-Brown High School.”
This “cooperation” was formalized on Nov. 18, 1963, in Deed Book 25, when the board sold the Smith-Brown gym and access to the structure to the city. Fifteen years later, on March 16, 1978, the District School Board of DeSoto County sold the rest of the property to the city, as recorded in Official Record Book 139.
On March 23, the city was sued by “Hinton Johnson, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated.” Johnson charged that “the services and facilities provided to the black residents of Arcadia with respect to street paving, parks and recreation, and water supply system are substantially inferior to the provision of these facilities and services to white residents ... [and] these inequalities are the result of systematic racial discrimination against the black residents of the town.”
The city was judged guilty and forbidden “from initiating any major service or improvement program in the white residential community until such time as the improvements ordered by this Court for the black residential community are completed.”
In the May 3, 1979, Arcadian, Max Hackney reported the “open house ceremonies at the New Smith-Brown Community and Recreation Center.” The work was complete except for restroom renovations and lighting for the baseball field. “As soon as these final tasks are finished, [City Administrator Bill] Terry said he will ask Federal Judge Ben Kretzman to make a final inspection of the premises to verify the center conforms to a court order that mandate the improvements.”
In 1998, the Smith-Brown Community Foundation, Inc., was registered with the state of Florida “to benefit the youth of DeSoto County.” Since 2014, the organization’s mission is “to work collaboratively with individuals and community organizations to provide experiences that will improve the quality of life and foster a sense of neighborhood and family for all people.”