December Happenings at the History Center

Bartow, Fla. (Dec. 1, 2017) – Journey into Polk history this month at the Polk County History Center. The following programs and events are open to the public and free of charge:

  • December’s Family Program Learn about the bear who was the real Winnie-the-Pooh.
    • When veterinarian and Canadian soldier Harry Colebourn saw and bought a young bear while at a train station, his life changed forever. Harry named the bear Winnie, short for Winnipeg, his company’s home town. He took care of Winnie until he was sent to France during World War I. No longer able to care for Winnie, Harry found a new home for the bear at the London Zoo. There, Winnie met a young boy named Christopher Robin. Come learn the true, heartwarming story of the real Winnie-the-Pooh and create your own Winnie book mark.

  • Book Club Recommended Reading – “World War I: The American Soldier Experience,” by Jennifer D. Keene 
    • World War I describes the Great War and recounts the daily lives of the men and women who served the United States. Author Jennifer Keene relied extensively on diaries, letters, and reminiscences of those Americans who fought or served in World War I. She reports on training camp experiences at home, the soldier’s journeys overseas, immigrants, women, Native Americans and the unique encounters black Americans experienced while serving in a predominately white military. She also describes the horrors of active engagement in combat, static trench warfare, the devastating frequency of death and the struggles of reentry into civilian life for those soldiers who made it home.


  • Dec. 1 - 14 – Festival of Wreaths
    • Celebrate the season at the History Center with a visit to experience the Festival of Wreaths. More than 40 beautiful wreaths deck the halls and are available for purchase through silent auction at Proceeds from the Festival of Wreaths benefit History Center programming. Bidding ends at 5 p.m. Dec. 14 and winners will be notified Dec. 15.

  • Dec. 2 – 11 a.m. – Oak Hill Cemetery Tour
    • Learn about the pioneer families and World War I veterans interred at this historic Bartow cemetery. The tour starts at the History Center with a short walk of about one mile and includes historic landmarks along the route to the cemetery. Oak Hill Cemetery was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2003 with the earliest recorded burial dating to 1860. The cemetery tour begins at 11 a.m. the first Saturday of every month, November through April.


  • Dec. 7, 12:15 to 1 p.m. – Lunch and Learn – Special Program – The 75th Anniversary of the Avon Park Bombing Range
    • Established in 1942, the Avon Park Air Force Range is a 106,000 acre military training facility located in Polk and Highlands Counties. Guest Speaker Kathy Couturier, cultural resources manager and archaeologist with the Avon Park Air Force Range, will present a lecture that outlines the 75-year history of the range. Join us for this special Lunch and Learn program as we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the facility and honor those who served in World War II and gave their lives in service to our country on Dec. 7, 1941.
  • Dec. 16, 11 a.m. – Architectural Tour
    • Join us for a family-friendly architectural tour of the History Center and learn more about neoclassical architecture, the construction of the building and the stories behind the iconic Old Polk County Courthouse with special emphasis on the 1908 donkey-powered elevator. The architectural tour is at 11 a.m. on the third Saturday of each month.

  • New Temporary Exhibit, “Together We Win: Polk County’s World War I Contributions,” featuring Polk residents who served in World War I. The exhibit will be on display through November 2018 and includes:
    • A display of World War I propaganda poster reproductions
    • Radio controlled planes depicting German, French and British models
    • Photographs from the archives showing Polk people and places during the war
    • Never before-displayed artifacts from the collection archives
    • A display of WWI era Pickelhaubes, pistols and knives, on special loan for this exhibit
    • A collection of original letters written by local soldiers, addressed to the Bartow Drug Co., to let friends, here at home, know where they were stationed and how they were doing
    • An informative history of the local division of the Florida National Guard, the 2nd Florida Regiment, known during the war as the Dixie Division
    • Biographies and achievements of Polk dignitaries who played a crucial role in World War I - including Gen. (then Capt.) James Van Fleet, Lt. Gen. (then Maj.) Albert Blanding, U.S. Senator (then 1st Lt. and Judge Advocate General) Spessard Holland and Dr. Knowles Oglesby, the first Bartow native to be killed in action during the war


  • History Center Holiday Closures
    • The History Center will close from Dec. 23 - 26 for the Christmas holidays, and will re-open  Dec. 27.
    • The History Center will close Dec. 30 in observance of the New Year’s Day holiday, and will re-open Jan. 2.

The Polk County History Center is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday at 100 E. Main St. in Bartow. Visit or call (863) 534-4386 for more information on exhibits and programming.  All programs and events are free and open to the public.

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