About Us

Lake Wales Museum - Strategic Plan 2026


Vision

Every town has an important history to celebrate.

A living legacy, the Lake Wales Museum unites our community through the powerful history that shaped Lake Wales, Florida. The Lake Wales Museum preserves and shares our community’s proud heritage, inspiring deeper connections to the city and encouraging our ability to contribute to its story.


Mission

The mission of the Lake Wales Museum is to collect, preserve and share the heritage of Lake Wales.


Core Values

THE LAKE WALES MUSEUM STRIVES TO...
> Honor & Preserve Authentic History
> Be Inclusive and Diverse
> Have Integrity & Transparency
> Be Honest, Fair and Collaborative with the Community
> Practice Museum Excellence


History

Located along the highland ridge of Lake Wales, Florida, the Lake Wales Museum is a historical museum housed in the town’s original Mediterranean-style 1928 Atlantic Coast Line Railroad station, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The organization began as a project of the 1974 Lake Wales Bicentennial Commission, and the museum was established in 1976. In 1987, the Historical Lake Wales Society, a non-profit organization became the governing authority of the Museum. The mission was to collect and preserve local history, and the first task was to establish a repository of collections from the community. From then, the organization evolved into a resource center for the public, formed an annual heritage festival called Pioneer Days, saved three additional historic buildings, three train cars, and continued to care for and celebrate Lake Wales history.

Besieged by growing financial hardships brought on by the 2008 recession, the Historic Lake Wales Society was no longer able to sustain the museum operations, and in 2015, the museum was officially reorganized under the City of Lake Wales. To date, 60% of the museum’s 20,000-item collection has been inventoried, and stored in a new offsite facility.

The museum hosts 7,500 visitors annually. Guests may experience historical and changing exhibits, old train cars, speaker series, special tours and events. Visitors learn about the natural history of the Lake Wales Ridge beginning with Florida’s native people to the development of Lake Wales’ railroad, industry and residents of the 20th century. Guests may visit our newly restored 1926 Seaboard Air Line Railroad caboose, the 1916 Pullman passenger car and 1944 US Army locomotive engine.

Largescale community events hosted in the last 12 months include the 42nd Annual Pioneer Days, the inaugural Beers with Pioneers, The Way We Worked Smithsonian traveling exhibit, Monster’s Ball Halloween event, Pet Day at the Museum, and participated in the downtown Lake Wales events Make It Magical and the 39-Mile Yard Sale.

The museum regularly collaborates with local businesses and nonprofits. Field trips and museum outreach programs are offered for K-12th grade school groups on a regular basis, along with history bus tours, humanities speakers, history happy hours, a non-fiction book club, workshops and events for all ages. Individuals and students older than 15 years of age are welcome to participate in our volunteer program who actively work on collections, special events and visitor services.