Lakeland Historical Trail
1....Print this file.
2....At its end, click on "rules" to see a copy of the trail rules, print it, and then click where indicated at the end of the 3-page rules and patch order form to get back to the list of Florida trails.
3....If you want a hand-drawn map showing the locations of all of the sites, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to Steve Rajtar, 1614 Bimini Dr., Orlando, FL 32806.
4....Hike the trail and order whatever patches you like (optional).
WARNING - This trail may pass through one or more neighborhoods which, although full of history, may now be unsafe for individuals on foot, or which may make you feel unsafe there. Hikers have been approached by individuals who have asked for handouts or who have inquired (not always in a friendly manner) why the hikers are in their neighborhood. Drugs and other inappropriate items have been found by hikers in some neighborhoods. It is suggested that you drive the hike routes first to see if you will feel comfortable walking them and, if you don't think it's a good place for you walk, you might want to consider (1) traveling with a large group, (2) doing the route on bicycles, or (3) choosing another hike route. The degree of comfort will vary with the individual and with the time and season of the hike, so you need to make the determination using your best judgment. If you hike the trail, you accept all risks involved.
In 1898, Spanish-American War soldiers camped here in anticipation of being sent overseas.
The first school in Lakeland was located at this intersection with A.M. Bishop as the teacher and operated here until 1902, when it moved to a new building near Lake Wire.
This was the location of one of the five encampments during the Spanish-American War. Pvt. Wesley S. Brass died here and was given an elaborate funeral.
This building housed the Park Trammell Library, named after a governor and U.S. Senator. When the library moved to a new location on the eastern end of Lake Morton, this building was taken over by the Chamber of Commerce.
Abraham Munn's son, Morris G. Munn, was an early leader in the civic and business activities of Lakeland. In about 1910, he built his home at this corner, facing north. Later, this became the headquarters of Florida Citrus Mutual.
This stuccoed Mediterranean Revival style building shows a red tile roof, ornate entrance, and tower.
This tract was a parking lot shortly before the construction of a department store building, which commenced on January 4, 1954. A new store building costing $2,000,000 was built here in 1969-71. After the store moved out, the facility became Watkins Administrative Center.
The headquarters of Peninsular Telephone Company, the predecessor to the General Telephone Company of Florida, were located in a four-story building here during the 1950s. On the first floor was the Fancy Fare ice cream parlor.
This building was the home of the Lefels Company, which sold suits in the W. Fisk Johnson Building, built in 1921. In 1926, the owners spent $65,000 to convert it to a place where movies and live theatrical productions could be enjoyed.
During the 1920s, the Lakeland Ledger newspaper was located here.
Located here was one of several drug stores owned and operated by Claire Henley, the son of Dr. and Mrs. L.F. Henley. On the second floor, Clayton Logan had his grove management business headquarters.
The first city hall was built here of wood in the mid-1880s for $400. It was two stories with jail cells downstairs. The jail was nicknamed the "McDermott House" after its first occupant. It burned down not long after it was built when a prisoner started a fire in his cell to burn an escape hole through the wall.
The first brick city hall was built in 1905 on N. Florida Ave., with the city jail behind it to the east. A new city hall was built here in 1913 and both structures were connected. This served as the city hall until 1924.
A major fire here on January 1, 1906, destroyed the businesses between Florida and Tennessee Aves., including the L.W. Cowdery building, the T.J. McKnight Grocery, Lawton Bryant's seed store, Johns' meat market, Johnson's restaurant and store, and Armisted's tannery.
In 1912, the Van Huss Opera House located here was moved to the corner of Main St. and New York Ave. to make room for a new building. The new Van Huss Building became the first headquarters for the tourist organization on January 27, 1916. Its rooms were later the location of the Western Union office.
The exterior of this ten-story buidling was remodeled in 1927. It houses offices of business and professional persons.
Twin brothers A.B. and D.B. Kibler built the Kibler Hotel here, opening on November 10, 1913, as Lakeland's first modern hotel at a cost of $125,000. In 1907, they had gotten into the phosphate industry here, and added the hotel to their business interests. They sold it in 1919 to H.B. Carter, who had moved to Lakeland in 1901. He renamed it the Hotel Thelma for his oldest daughter.
In 1914, Frank McKay's McKay Furniture Company opened in the hotel building. His furniture delivery truck doubled as the town's only hearse. During the 1940s, the Palace Theater was located in the hotel.
For years, the hotel was the site of civic club meetings and other local gatherings. It was torn down in the early 1960s.
This congregation was founded in 1884 at Acton, a settlement founded by an English nobleman, Lord John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, between Lakes Bonney and Parker consisting mostly of settlers from England. They were engaged in citrus growing, and the manager of their agricultural activities, Piers E. Warburton, raised money for the construction of the church.
He lectured in England about the wonders of Florida, charging admission. Queen Alexandra, wife of King Edward VII, became interested and donated certain altar furnishings, including brass vases and perhaps some altar hangings. After the freezes of 1894 and 1895, the Acton church was abandoned and vandals stole the donated items.
Another Episcopal congregation was formed in Lakeland and Rev. J.H. Weddel received authorization to move the abandoned Action building to this city. He accomplished this with oxen.
The present sanctuary was built in 1924, incorporating the old structure. Their first service in it was held on February 24, 1924.
This was first known as Deep Lake, then Bushy Lake for the myrtle bushes that grew around it.
This walkway designed by Charles W. Leavitt and built in 1926-28 is an example of the City Beautiful Movement in Florida. It consists of a 6900-foot concrete seawall around Lake Mirror, a 540-foot concrete retaining wall, vaulted arched loggia, Corinthian columns, and grand staircases descending from downtown. The promenade was named after Frances Langford, an actress and Lakeland native. The Promenade was added to the National Register of Historic Places on January 27, 1983.
The Lakeland Fire Department at the intersection of Main and Rose Sts. is housed in the former Coca Cola bottling plant. The Coke logos, likely from the 1930s, are still evident.
A 1,700 seat auditorium was built here for the Lakeland Chautauqua, started in 1911 by C. Rucker Adams. It opened on November 6, 1912, and claimed to be the largest in Florida. It served as the city's main auditorium for about a dozen years, and was torn down in 1928.
The civic center on the eastern shore of the lake was built at a cost of $1,000,000, and was dedicated on July 4, 1928.
The building which replaced it has curved corners and rounded windows, and housed the Central Vacuum Cleaner Co.
This ten-story hotel was built on the site of the old Tremont House, which was moved about 200 feet south to make room. The Tremont had been built by A.G. Munn for $20,000 in 1886, and was sold later that year to J.W. Emerson. For a time, it was managed by Col. J.H.A. Bruce, who eventually bought the Tremont.
The site of the Lakeland Terrace was purchased during 1923 after civic leaders pushed for a new hotel. It was developed by the Adair Realty Co. Work began in October of 1923, and the hotel opened on October 20, 1924.
The old US route 92 was previously routed by the front door of the hotel.
In 1926, the old Florida Hotel was replaced with a new one of the same name. In 1936, Lakeland's first rado station, WLAK, opened atop the building. Later, it was known as the Florida Retirement Residence Hotel and then as Regency Tower.
A fire in the spring of 1908 destroyed a large part of the business district here. This corner was the site of Lakeland's first store, erected by Capt. William B. Bonacker of Iowa in May of 1884. It had living quarters upstairs. Bonacker's daughter, Dora, was the first child born in Lakeland.
After the fire, C.W. Deen and Robert Bryant bought the corner lot and had a new building erected. For a time, its tenant was the McCrory store.
During the late 1920s and 1930s, there was a traffic tower here in the middle of the intersection. Atop a narrow metal frame was a wide shack with lights on the exterior.
The Munn Building opened on this corner in 1904. The following year, its tenant was the Citizens Bank, which incorporated on January 28, 1905, with R.O. Cresap as its president. It later became the First National Bank of Lakeland, which consolidated with American State Bank on July 6, 1915. The bank closed on April 1, 1928. On September 3, 1929, Florida National Bank opened in the same building. It was founded by Alfred I. DuPont of Almours Securities, Inc.
Earlier known as City Park when established as a town square in 1884, this land had its first bandshell erected in about 1888, the same year a city cornet band was organized. Ten years later, Abraham Godwin Munn deeded the land to the city. He had visited Florida in 1877 as a tourist, and in 1881 bought a large tract in Polk County. His son, Samuel G. Munn, laid it out as a town which became Lakeland.
In the park was a pavilion which was used by the city council for meetings and storage of records for a time. The records were moved after Wakefield Ramsdell's goat wandered into the building and ate a portion of them. In 1905, when the city hall was built, the meeting place moved there. The pavilion was then moved to the grounds of the school at Lake Wire.
This park was officially named by the city council in April of 1908 for the founder of Lakeland. The large Civil War monument was unveiled on June 3, 1910, by the Lakeland chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
At this location, arching over Kentucky Ave., stood the Welcome Arch, illuminated with electric light bulbs. During the week of November 1, 1914, the United Confederate Veterans met in Lakeland. The arch built for the occasion stood for several years afterward.
The main business district here, stretching from Main St. to the railroad, and from Kentucky to Massachusetts Aves., was destroyed by a fire in 1904. Ten years later, the area was thriving again, with a drug store, the New Mexico Land Company office, the Kansas-Florida Insurance Company, and the Stevens Jewelry Store, where in the early 1900s, railroad men brought their watches here each week to be timed.
A.E. Sloan & Co. was founded in 1892 as a general merchandise store, and later shifted its stock to hardware. Its home, the third brick building erected in Lakeland, was built here by D.H. Sloan, brother of owner A.E. Sloan. Its lot went all the way west to Massachusetts Ave.
On May 26, 1891, the Lakeland Light and Power Company located here turned on the power, making Lakeland the state's third city with electricity, following Jacksonville and Tampa. Henry C. Sloan served as the first plant manager.
Lakeland was first served by the South Florida Railroad, which reached the town on August 21, 1885. The first railroad station was built on land donated by Abraham G. Munn. He had the station built for $2,500 at his own expense. That station, including both the passenger and freight portions, burned down in August of 1901. A few months later, W.D. McRae built a combination station.
The third station, which had opened on March 14, 1912, burned on February 1, 1918, with a loss of $25,000. It was rebuilt as a two-story station, opening on January 31, 1919. The final Atlantic Coast Line depot here was torn down after 1954 and was replaced by an extenstion of Munn Park.
In 1900, the drug store of Dr. L.F. Henley was located here. After his death, it and other drug stores were operated by his son, Claire. It was replaced by a large, two-story rusticated concrete block building.
Salvedo Raymondo built a three-story structure here in 1904, making it the largest building of its time in Lakeland. The first floor housed the U.G. Bates Clothing store. On the third floor was the Lakeland Business College. Later, the Lyric Theater was located here.
In 1919, the first self-service grocery store in Florida, The Groceteria, opened in that building. Five years later, D.C. Boswell and J.E. Miller sold it to Whit Cook.
In 1903, Napoleon B. Bowyer built his two-story business block here. Bowyer had been the mayor of Lakeland in 1889-1890. In the 1920s, this building was the site of J.W. Lanier's grocery store.
Previously, this was the site of Twedell's Grocery Store. In 1903, S.L.A. Clonts erected the city's second brick building here with two stories, designed by W.B. Talley, and into it that year moved the State Bank of Lakeland. That bank had begun as the State Bank of Fort Meade in 1890, and was renamed and moved to Lakeland in 1902. From 1925 until the mid-1930s, Nathan Estroff's Department Store was located here.
The building has large arched entryways on the first floor, arched windows on the second floor, and a distinctive corner tower with a copper roof.
Beginning with its construction in 1920, this building housed Yarnall's Transfer & Storage Company and a locksmith. During the 1920s, the "downtown" area was around here and the railroad.
This was the headquarters for the railway express company. Behind it was a platform for loading strawberries for shipment out. In 1923, the city added a buyers' platform.
Just to the south, C.W. Turner operated Palmetto Stables, Lakeland's first livery stable. This is where the first horse was kept when it was not pulling the fire wagon for the Lakeland Volunteer Fire Department shortly after 1900.
The congregation of the First Baptist Church organized in 1885 with 12 members, and first met in an old storehouse on Main St. They built their first sanctuary in 1887, and Rev. J.G. McCaskey served as their first pastor. The church was replaced in 1904 with a 400-seat brick building costing $11,000, and again by the present building in 1948. The educational annex to the north was completed in 1958. Later, First Baptist moved out and Trinity Presbyterian moved in.
In 1902 Lakeland's second school, a brick building costing $10,000, was erected here on land donated by W.D. McRae and Robert Bryant. In 1926, it was replaced by another school, designed by E.C. Hosford and built by G.C. Wright. It later was the home of Lakeland Middle Academy, later renamed as Lawton Chiles Middle Academy.
This body of water was known as Israel's Dish. When the telegraph line was being laid from Ocala to Punta Rassa, the wire had to be routed around the lake, giving it its present name. On its shore, Herbert J. Drane built a camp which, with the help of Abraham G. Munn, grew into Lakeland. Munn in 1884 headed the Lakeland Improvement Company, surveying and platting the townsite.
The congregation of the Church of Christ completed their building in June of 1926 for $20,000. T.B. Thompson was the pastor. The church building was torn down about 75 years after it was built.
The first sanctuary was completed on April 8, 1906, on a lot donated by Mrs. M.J. Malloy. The present one was completed in 1936, with stained glass windows crafted by the Tyrole Art Glass studio.
This lake is named after a visitor to Lakeland, Beulah Wentz.
This lake is named after an Indian fighter.
This large orphanage relocated to Lakeland from Arcadia in 1947.
This park is named for Herbert J. Drane, the first white settler in Lakeland. He was in this area supervising the construction of the railroad. Drane served as a U.S. congressman from 1917 until 1933.
This brick sanctuary was built in the mid-1920s. The stained glass windows in this church were produced by Jacoby Art Glass Company.
Norman A. Riggins had this Victorian style home built in 1904 a block to the northeast, overlooking Lake Morton. It has ten rooms and three baths in its 2 1/2 stories. Royal palms from the Thomas Edison estate in Fort Myers were transplanted here. Later, the home was moved up the hill to its present location. It features curved porches on the first two stories and a three-story tower.
Part of the homesite closer to the lake, including the boathouse on the lake and the tennis court across the road from it, was later the location of the Rose Keller Branch of the Children's Home Society of Florida.
Approximately 50 blocks extending south and east of here, containing about 760 buildings, were designated a historic district in 1985. The most common style of construction is the Bungalow, followed by Frame Vernacular. Most were built between 1900 and 1942.
Lake Morton was named after John P. Morton of Louisville, Kentucky, a brother-in-law of Abraham Munn.
This lake was previously named Lake Boney, named after Indian fighter David Boney, who lived nearby.
Mayor John D. Torrence, a civil engineer by trade, platted this cemetery and donated it to the city. He was the first person to be buried in it. Across the street is Lakeview Cemetery.
This club for women was founded in 1922 by Mrs. George M. Wright, with Mrs. William Steitz serving as its first president. The club built its large clubhouse here in 1928 for $75,000, and dedicated the building on March 14, 1928. The tan brick building features three masonry arches and two wall medalions bearing female profiles.
This congregation organized in 1884 and a $2,000 sanctuary was built in 1888. The present sanctuary was completed in 1955.
A Guide to National Register Sites in Florida, by Florida Department of State (1984)
An Uncommon Guide to Florida, by Nina McGuire (Tailored Tours Publications, Inc. 1992)
Century in the Sun: A History of Polk County, Florida, by Ed McNeely and Al R. McFadyen (Polk County Centennial Committee 1961)
First United Methodist Church, Lakeland, Florida, (The First United Methodist Church 1979)
Florida Historic Stained Glass Survey: Sites of Historic Windows in Public Facilities in the State of Florida, by Robert O. Jones (Florida Members of the Stained Glass Association of America 1995)
Florida Jewish Heritage Trail, by Rachel B. Heimovics and Marcia Zerivitz (Florida Department of State 2000)
Florida Off the Beaten Path, by Diana and Bill Gleasner (The Globe Pequot Press 1993)
Florida Southern College: The First 100 Years, by Theodore M. Haggard (Florida Southern College 1985)
Florida Southern College Walking Tour, by Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce (1972)
Florida's Fabled Inns, by Louis K. Frisbie (Imperial Publishing Company 1980)
Florida's Historical Markers & Sites, by Floyd E. Boone (Gulf Publishing Company 1988)
Florida's History Through Its Places: Properties In the National Register of Historic Places, by Morton D. Winsberg (Florida State University 1988)
Guide to Florida's Historic Architecture, (University of Florida Press 1989)
Guide to the Small and Historic Lodgings of Florida, by Herbert L. Hiller (Pineapple Press, Inc. 1991)
History of Polk County, Florida, by M.F. Hetherington (The Mickler House 1971)
Mosswood Remembered, by Margaret D. Pinkson (Gateway Press, Inc. 1995)
This Was Yesterday: A History of Lakeland, Florida, (The Junior Welfare League of Greater Lakeland, Inc. 1973)
Wish You Were Here: A Grand Tour of Early Florida Via Old Post Cards, by Hampton Dunn (Byron Kennedy and Company 1981)
Yesterday's Lakeland, by Hampton Dunn (Bay Center Corporation 1976)
Yesterday's Polk County, by Louise K. Frisbie (E.A. Seeman Publishing, Inc. 1976)
Click here for a copy of the trail rules.