What was once the Polk County Courthouse, built in 1908, now serves as the History Center and houses a historical museum and library.

Historical Museum and Library

Recognized as the largest artifact on display at the history center, the Historic 1908 Courthouse served the citizens of Polk County from 1908-1987. In 1998 the building was granted a new commission as the Polk County History Center and Historical and Genealogical Library.

Polk County History Center
Polk County History Center

Having been listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989, the courthouse is an exemplary representation of the neoclassical architectural style that flourished from 1890 into the early twentieth century. This particular style is recognized through the use of tall columns, symmetrical fixtures, triangular pediments and accentuated domes. Through careful preservation, the building has been frozen in time and longtime residents consistently reflect on fond memories on their own experiences walking the courthouse halls.

Museum Collections

With eleven permanent and four temporary galleries, the Polk County History Center offers a diverse collection with abundant opportunities for discovery for history and heritage lovers enjoying a Central Florida vacation. 

Arts and Culture Gallery at Polk County History Center
Arts and Culture Gallery at Polk County History Center

Anchoring the first floor are seven permanent galleries that explore the people, places and events that have made a lasting impact on Polk County. From pioneers to industrialists and countless veterans, each display illustrates our treasured and unique heritage.

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Historic Courtrooms

The second floor of the Polk County History Center features the fully restored 1908 Courtroom, the 1926 Courtroom. The vaulted ceilings and spacious viewing gallery reveal the prominence of the 1908 courtroom and reflect the public nature of the judicial process.

Artifacts on display include an original judge’s bench, a thirteen person jury box and the bar that separated members of the court from the viewing gallery.

Military History and Paleo Indians

Two additional permanent exhibits on the second floor of the History Center explore Polk County’s military history and the Paleo Indians who inhabited the region over 1,500 years ago.

Polk County History Center
Polk County History Center

Kid-Friendly Exhibits

Two adjoining galleries provide a distinct kid-friendly experience. Children visiting LEGOLAND Florida Resort during their Central Florida vacation will enjoy a slower pace at the History Center. They can dress up as pioneers, produce a puppet show, and explore replicas of a Seminole Chickee and pioneer cracker home. 

A special fossil exhibit features teeth from a giant megalodon shark, the leg bones of a mastodon and skulls from a giant American crocodile, and sabre tooth cat. A recurring family day program is offered on the second Saturday of each month and includes an activity and storytelling session.

Interactive History Trail guide at Polk County History Center
Interactive History Trail guide at Polk County History Center

History & Heritage Trail

Explore even more during your Central Florida vacation. The Polk County History Center serves as the heritage concierge for Polk County and is equipped to direct visitors to over 175 heritage sites found county wide. 

Through the Polk County Heritage Trail visitors can embark on a journey to explore a multitude of historic homes, vintage hotels, cemeteries, monuments, festivals, museums and much more. Staff at the Polk County History Center can provide recommendations for single day trips or direct you to sites based in a single city.

You may also be interested in Top 10 Museums and Cultural Attractions or Bartow.

Address / Location

100 E Main St
Bartow, FL 33830
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Contact Info

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Hours of Operation

Tuesday - Friday 9:00 - 5:00 p.m.
Saturday 9:00 - 3:00 p.m.
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Arts & Culture

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Trip Advisor Logo Reviews

5 Star Rating

Well done exhibits in an accredited museum, a boast that many smaller museums can't make. There is a wonderful children's space as well. The monthly programming brings us back frequently. Read Full Review

5 Star Rating

Friendly museum with a lot of history of Polk County. The children’s rooms are fun for small children. It’s one of the best kept little secrets! Read Full Review

5 Star Rating

Visiting the area from UK and were recommended by a local resident to visit the museum , a very good suggestion. The previous courthouse has been restored to it's former glory and contains so much... Read Full Review

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