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Polk County History Center

Welcome to the Polk County History Center, home to the historical museum and genealogical library.

The Polk County Historical Museum opened its doors on September 19, 1998, in the Old Polk County Courthouse, located in downtown Bartow. The Museum serves the Polk County Community through special events, volunteer opportunities, and educational programs. The Museum's exhibits and programs continue to grow and change as new information and artifacts become available.

The Polk County Historical and Genealogical Library was first opened to the public in January of 1940. The library is one of the largest Genealogical and Historical collections in the Southeast United States.

1908 Courthouse Blueprint Discovery Video

Historical Museum Photo


Polk County History Center - Information & Fees


The History Center is located in downtown Bartow at:

100 East Main Street (corner of Main & Broadway)
Bartow, Florida 33830

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Hours of Operation

Tuesday - Saturday 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.
Closed Sundays & Mondays 

Admission Fee

Admission to the Polk County History Center is FREE

Preview your visit to the Polk County History Center now!  



Special Events & Announcements

The History Center's Monthly Architectural Tour:
The Polk County History Center has a new Architectural Tour. Explore the courthouse and learn more about Neo-Classical architecture, the construction of the building and the stories behind the iconic Old Polk County Courthouse. The Architectural Tours occur on the third Saturday of each month at 11 a.m.

The Polk County Heritage Brochure is Now Available:  
The History Center is proud to announce the new brochure "History & Heritage Guide to Polk County" which is available at various locations throughout the county.  PDF version available here:  Description: Download PDF  History & Heritage Guide to Polk County Join us May 22nd at 6:00pm for "Picture Polk History" a reception and photographic exhibition of Polk County heritage sites. To order the Heritage Guide follow this link:  Heritage Guide Order Form  

Picture Polk History Photo Exhibit: 
"Picture Polk History" was a photography contest sponsored by the Polk County History Center to celebrate the launch of the History & Heritage Guide to Polk County brochure. Picture Polk History features the history and heritage sites on the Polk County heritage trail. Explore Polk County’s ‘sense of place’ by viewing distinctive images of our unique, historic buildings, places and events. The exhibit and photo entries will remain on display through November, 2014. 

Edge of Wilderness: Polk County in the Civil War Exhibit:  
The History Center opened three new Civil War exhibits in September, 2013. The exhibits will remain open through April 2015 to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. “Defending the Boundaries of Wilderness,” examines how men from Polk County fought on both sides of the Civil War. The exhibit uncovers the histories of the Cow Cavalry, the South Florida Bulldogs, Union troops, and Colored Units who lived, fought, or settled in Polk County. Opening the same day, “Living on the Edge of Wilderness,” focuses on the lives of women and families on the home front of Polk County during the Civil War. Visitors can also discover Florida’s naval history in the Civil War, read family histories of Confederate veterans, and learn the story of the Immortal 600.  

Lunch and Learn speaker series at the Historical Museum, January - November: 
The Polk County Historical Museum is introducing a monthly “Lunch & Learn” series.
The History Center invites guests to bring lunch up to the 1926 courtroom and listen to a guest speaker on the third Tuesday every month. Lectures will begin at 12:15 and last 45 - 60 minutes. 
The program is free, just bring your own lunch! 

The 2014 Lunch & Learn speakers & dates are here: Description: Download PDF  Lunch & Learn 2014 Schedule

Historic Oak Hill Cemetery Tours:  
Join staff at 11:00a.m. on the first Saturday of each month for a free walking tour of the historic Oak Hill Cemetery starting at the History Center in Bartow. Many pioneer families are buried in this cemetery, including Civil War veterans Jacob Summerlin and Gen. Evander M. Law.

Family Fun Day:  
Family Fun Day is a free event on the second Saturday of each month between 10:00am - noon. Children and their families can participate together in a new arts and crafts activity each month while learning about Polk County history.

Monthly Book Club:  
Bring your lunch and join the History Center for a group discussion of a book that relates to one of our exhibits. The book club meets at the History Center the first two Tuesdays every month. Call 863-534-4381 for the 2014 list of books or open the pdf here: Description: Download PDF  2014 Book Club List


Polk Pioneer Interviews are now available to watch here!

Scroll through the names or enter a name in the search box.


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Education / School Program      

The History Center features a guided tour through the museum's exhibits. The program takes students through museum exhibits in a team learning exercise that will uncover information about Polk County and Florida history. For more information about this service please see the School Program page.


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Rental Information     

The History Center is an extraordinary venue for hosting group functions such as; conferences, weddings, receptions, or meetings. For more information about hosting an event at the History Center, see the Museum Rentals page or download the Description: Download PDF  Museum Rental Brochure. Events with alcohol service require additional forms and insurance. Contact the History Center for more information.


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Volunteer Opportunities     

Get involved with the History Center by volunteering. The History Center currently has several opportunities available to assist with organizing collections and greeting visitors. View a list of Description: Download PDF current opportunities.


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The Polk County History Center's museum collection includes natural and cultural objects related to Polk County and the greater Central Florida area that represent our history from pre-Columbian to present day eras.  For more information about the exhibitions or to view the virtual tour, please see the Museum Exhibitions page. For a list of special events and temporary exhibits at the museum click here Museum Exhibitions


Polk County History Center's Gift Shop

The History Center's Gift Shop offers a wide variety of books, specialty food items, and souvenirs. Call the museum office at (863) 534-4386 to inquire about item availability.

Description: Image Icon for Polk's General Store Gift Shop

Have Questions?

For more information about the Polk County History Center please contact us by email, phone (863) 534-4386 or toll free 1-800-780-5346 ext.4386; or fax (863) 534-4387. Operating hours are Tuesday-Saturday between 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. (excluding holidays).



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We enhance the quality of life for people throughout Polk County
The Polk County Board of County Commissioners is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer
Polk County Board of County Commissioners | 330 West Church Street | P.O. Box 9005 | Bartow, FL 33830 | 863.534.6000