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Abandoned Dr. Beal’s Shell Museum

Dr. James Hartley Beal, a distinguished figure in the fields of pharmacy, chemistry, law, education, and science, is commemorated by a historic marker outside his former residence and shell museum. Born on September 23, 1861, in New Philadelphia, Ohio, Dr. Beal’s educational journey took him through public schools, Scio College in Ohio, the University of Michigan, and the Cincinnati Law School. Following his graduation in 1886, he married Fannie Snyder Young and embarked on a multifaceted career.

During 1889, Dr. Beal founded the Scio College of Pharmacy, now recognized as the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy, where he served as the dean before his relocation to Florida. Additionally, he represented Harrison County in the Ohio House of Representatives from 1902 to 1904, contributing to the enactment of the Beal Local Option Law. Dr. Beal’s extensive career included roles as the acting president of Scio College, a professor at the Pittsburg College of Pharmacy, and the president of the American Pharmacists Association from 1904 to 1905.

Dr. Beal’s home. c. 1930s

As a prolific author, Dr. Beal published several works, including “Chemical and Pharmaceutical Arithmetic,” “Prescription Practice and General Dispensing,” “Pharmaceutical Interrogations,” and “The Era Course in Pharmacy.” His significant contributions to American pharmacy were acknowledged with the first Remington Honor Medal in 1919, the highest recognition in the profession. Dr. Beal chaired the board of trustees of the U.S. Pharmacopeia from 1910 to 1940, and the Beal Award, established in his honor, is awarded for distinguished volunteer service to the U.S. Pharmacopeia since 2000.

Dr. Beal’s passion for collecting land and marine shells began in 1888, leading to the establishment of an impressive collection housed in his Fort Walton Beach residence. The collection gained prominence, and in 1940, Birdsey Lucious Maltbie funded the construction of a fire-proof building at Rollins College to house the nearly two million shell collection. Known as the Beal-Maltbie Shell Museum, it remained on display until 1988 when it was donated to the Florida Museum of Natural History.

beal shell museum
Beal-Maltbie Shell Museum, 1941.

Before his death in 1945, Dr. Beal played a pivotal role in the development of Tower Beach, where the Island Amusement Company, co-founded with Thomas Everett Brooks, began operations around 1930. Dr. Beal advocated for renaming the area to Fort Walton in 1918, believing it needed a more sophisticated name. The Tower Beach Corporation, formed in 1944, contributed to the expansion of the beachfront and the construction of the Tower Beach Pavilion.

Following Dr. Beal’s death, his family continued to reside in the Fort Walton Beach house until the 1960s. The house underwent transformations, serving as the Summerhouse Restaurant, and later as the Magnolia Grill. In 2005, the house was relocated to Wynnehaven Beach, where it stands today, accompanied by a historical marker. While Dr. Beal’s legacy endures through his contributions to pharmacy and shell collecting, his former residence, once intended for restoration, remains abandoned since its relocation.


Photojournalist: • David Bulit

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