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.

Poster Image for Central Florida Attraction - Polk County History Center

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.
Next Event

History & Heritage

Join staff for a family friendly, Neo-Classical architecture tour of Polk County History Center in Bartow each month.

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Arts & Culture

Citrus Label Tour of Polk County


Trip Advisor Logo Reviews

5 Star Rating

This is a prime example of never seeing what’s right in front of you. It’s a true local treasure in downtown. I’ve driven by it for years without going in and I was so glad I finally did. They have... Read Full Review

5 Star Rating

Our local anthropological society visited as a group and thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of this facility. Dedicated staff guided our tour and the museum shows the efforts of all involved in its... Read Full Review

5 Star Rating

My highest regards for the Polk County Commissioners. This government funded restoration of the beautiful 1908 Courthouse and the creation of a history museum has been awesome. The museum and the... Read Full Review

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