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City of Lake Wales, Florida Depot Museum
Historic Lake Wales
Historic Lake Wales Society

The Historic Lake Wales Society, Inc., was established in 1987 as a nonprofit corporation to assist in historic preservation in Lake Wales and its surrounding communities. Today it enthusiastically continues this important endeavor.

The mission of the Historic Lake Wales Society is to ensure that the cultural and historical integrity of the Lake Wales area is preserved and protected for future generations to enjoy. In addition to promoting the history and culture of Lake Wales, the society serves as the major fund-raising and private support group for the Lake Wales Museum and Cultural center, the City of Lake Wales, and the historic preservation and commemoration projects for the area.

"The historic buildings of Lake Wales, like those in any town or city, are not just pieces of nostalgia or pleasant diversions for visitors, but tangible links with the past that provide for residents a sense of continuity. They serve as milestones which allow people who grow up in the company of the buildings a way to view their lives in historical perspective. Historic buildings testify to the cultural values of the people who built the town and who continue to live in it.
Historic preservation accordingly serves as a stabilizing force in community life. In various ways, the ethic also offers economic opportunity. The preservation of a commercial district or residential neighborhood whose buildings complement one another in their architectural appearance helps to maintain their economic value. Historic places that have sensitively preserved their architectural heritage attract new residents and visitors alike. The importance of that fact to a town situated in central Florida cannot be emphasized too strongly."

~William R. Adams, Historic Lake Wales




Old City Hall Preservation Project

The City of Lake Wales, in cooperation with the Historic Lake Wales Society, obtained grants of $104,000 in 1993 and $275,200 in 1995 from the Department of Historic Resources, State of Florida, for the restoration lobby of the 1928 City Hall. The historic building has been vacant since 1998 when the city's administrative offices were moved to their current location. Old City Hall c. 1929
click to view enlargement

In November 2006, the City Commission unanimously approved giving Old City Hall to Polk Community College for a Lake Wales Campus. PCC has received a $3.6 million grant from the state to renovate the building for college use. The adaptive reuse of the structure will be completed in accordance with national guidelines for historic renovation and will include removal of the non-historic elements added in the 1950's and 60's. Renovations are expected to be completed around June 2009.



Old Lake Wales School Complex

Completed Gymnasium Restoration click to view enlargement The Historic Lake Wales Society and the City of Lake Wales again joined efforts and received significant grants from the Department of Historic Resources, State of Florida, for the restoration of the Old Lake Wales School Complex.

The first building completed in this restoration project was the 1939 Gymnasium, an $830,800 project with $85,000 contributed by the State of Florida and $745,800 by the City of Lake Wales. This historic structure was dedicated on Pioneer Day 1999 for renewed use by the community for recreation programs and is now known as the Albert Kirkland Sr. Gymnasium.

Historic Preservation and Cultural Affairs grants from the State of Florida, grants from the Polk County Board of County Commissioners, and private donations are assisting the City in funding the continuing adaptive reuse of the 1919 Lake Wales School Building as a performing arts center with a 700-seat auditorium and classrooms. State grants and private contributions funded the renovation of the 1920 Primary School which opened in 2007 as the Lake Wales Boys & Girls Club.

Built between 1919 and 1947, this complex of architecturally significant historic buildings was donated to the citizens of Lake Wales by the Polk County Board of Public Instruction and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Lake Wales School click to view enlargement

With funding contributed by the City of Lake Wales, Polk County, the State of Florida and private sources, this important project will be a multi-million dollar historic preservation effort. When completed, it will indeed be a valuable resource for our children and the community as a whole for generations to come.



National Historic District Designations


A number of buildings in Lake Wales have been distinguished through listing in the National Register of Historic Places, the official list of culturally significant historic resources in the United States. These include a group of seventeen buildings in the downtown commercial area which was itself designated a National Register Historic District in 1990. A few years later the original residential neighborhood east of the commercial area received its designation as a National Register Historic Residential District.

In November 1998, the Historic Lake Wales Society together with the City of Lake Wales Community Redevelopment Agency received a grant of $8,000 to assist in creating the city's third National Register Historic District. With funding matched by the Community Redevelopment Agency, the project totaled $16,000. CSX Historic Corridor
click to view enlargement

The designated National Register Historic North Avenue District is a historically African-American neighborhood where some of the community's first families made their homes and worked in the early industries of turpentine, lumber, railroading and citrus. Located in this historic area are many architecturally significant schools, churches, and civic buildings.

All of the National Register Historic Districts lie in close proximity to the CSX Historic Corridor. Along the corridor are found the E.C. Stuart Bungalow (1920); the Seaboard Airline Depot (1916); a frame cottage (1920) which housed the community's first library, Women's Club, Music Club, and Board of Trade; and the Atlantic Coastline Depot (1928). All of these historic buildings have been restored and serve today as museums, depicting the early life and development of the Lake Wales community.




Historic Lake Wales Society
Executive Committee

President Mimi Reid Hardman
Vice-President Alex Wheeler
Secretary Christine Waters
Treasurer Sid Porter
Board Members Barbara Else
Albert C. Galloway, Jr.
Dr. William Hardman
Sharon Kurschner
Ola Belle Tillman




Historic Lake Wales Society
Join the Historic Lake Wales Society

Benefits of membership include:

  • Invitations to all Museum exhibit openings, Pioneer Day, and other special events
  • 10% discount on all items in the Museum Gift Shop
  • 10% discount on all Museum-sponsored workshops
  • Quarterly newsletter
  • Access to the Museum's archives with research assistance
  • Membership card identifying you as a member of the Historic Lake Wales Society

  • The special feeling of knowing that you have contributed
    to the preservation of your community



Historic Lake Wales Society Membership Levels:
  • Student $10.00
  • Model Railroad Club $20.00
  • Individual $30.00
  • Family $50.00
  • Lifetime $250.00
  • Corporate $500.00

We also offer volunteer opportunities for programs such as Pioneer Day, seasonal events, exhibit openings, and museum docent staffing.
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