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3 women looking at citrus themed Polk County exhibits inside Polk County History Center in Bartow, FL

Polk County History Center

Housed in a 1908 courthouse, this museum showcases the history of Polk County. Galleries rotate exhibits every two months. Includes a gift shop and children’s gallery.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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