Arts & Culture

Polk County History Center

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

Polk County's Largest Artifact

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.

Poster Image for Polk County History Center Tour

The 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.

Polk County History Center
Polk County History Center

Exhibit Area Just for Kids

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.

Our Military History and Paleo Indians

The second floor of the Polk County History Center features the fully restored 1908 Courtroom, the 1926 Courtroom, and two additional permanent exhibits that explore Polk’s military history and the Paleo Indians who inhabited the region over 1,500 years ago. 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.

The 1926 courtroom has been transformed to serve as the presentation space for an active programming schedule that includes a monthly Lunch & Learn lecture series. “Lunch & Learn” is hosted on the third Tuesday of each month from 12:15 pm to 1:00 pm, bring a lunch and sit in on a lecture from a variety of topics.

Polk County History Center
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.

Explore. Experience. Enjoy.

Explore, experience and enjoy the Polk County History Center weekly, Tuesday thru Saturday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Historical and Architectural Tours are offered to groups free of charge and are provided each Friday and every third Saturday or can be scheduled in advance for any other day of the week.

With an evolving array of programs and special events, the best way to stay connected is by signing up for the museums monthly newsletter or by following the Polk County History Center on Facebook.

You may also be interested in Lake Wales Museum & Cultural Center, Polk Museum of Art, Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture or Bartow.

Address / Location

100 E Main St
Bartow, FL 33830
Get Directions

Contact Info

Visit Website
863-534-4386

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.

Latest Article

Arts & Culture

Nature Photography Exhibit at Polk County History Center

Reviews

5 Star Rating

I really appreciated to scope of exhibits. While some like the local photography are temporary, we found all to be fascinating. Some place every Polk county resident should visit. Read Full Review

5 Star Rating

We came to Bartow to take in the annual Arts Festival on this beautiful March 4, 2017 day and noticed this grand old building that was open to the public for self guided tours so we decided to add it... Read Full Review

5 Star Rating

Best county-run museum I've ever been. Something for everyone. Immaculate display and overall cleanliness. Rare items, like Nazi trophies of war, Seminole War era firearms, original Confederate... Read Full Review

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