Towns and Cities

[PHOTO CREDIT: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/118327]



In analyzing the resources of Lakeland and attempting to visualize in part many of the component factos responsible for its amazing progress in the past few years and its conceded future development, the basic consideration is its unparalleled location in hills of what is supposed to be a "flat State." If a city is made, and its soundness judged by its past progress and its potential possibilities, then Lakeland offers opportunities incomparable.

Located in the western part of Polk County, the wealthiest county in America, nearly in the centerof the peninsula of Florida, Lakeland is in the heart of the citrus belt, the truck farming section and the phosphate mining country. It is the largest city in the county which boasts of a wealth of $6,198.00 per capita; is the largest citrus-producing county in the world; stands first in the counties of Florida in the production of citrus nursery stock; cattle; value of all crops; second in the strawberry production; third in marketing of early vegetables; fourth in the number of automobile owners; and fifth in population.

With the exception of Jacksonville and Tampa, both port cities, Lakeland offers transportation facilities greater than any other city in the State. Surveys show that 950,000 of the 1,253,000 citizens of Florida can be reached by express within a period of seven hours from Lakeland. One of the best indications of the progress of any community may be found in the growth of the telephone system. Figures which have just been compiled show that in 1913 there were 660 telephones in operation in Lakeland. On July 25th, 1924, officials of the company announced 2,546 telephones and on October 25th, 1924, 2,876 and on March 1st, 1925, 3,020.

In 1885, land in the down town section could be bought for $5.00 an acre. Today an acre of land in the business district is valued at a million and half dollars. In 1910, Lakeland had progressed but little more. The population was 3,719. Business conditions differed but little, and Lakeland had not yet attained a formidable position as a winter haven.

In the early months of 1916, Polk County took a distinct step towards progress, when the citizens of the county voted a bond issue of $1,500,000---the largest ever passed in the South for exclusive road construction. This gigantic issue provided system of sheet asphalt highways throughout the county, connecting every community. It gave Polk County 217 miles of good, hard surfaced roads. From time to time the system has gradually been extended until Polk now has more than 400 miles of asphalt highways.

The year 1920 found Lakeland enjoying an excellent growth. The population at that time was 7,062, Lakeland was growing rapidly, but not to any degree as rapidly as the growth has come since that period. The remarkable progress has come since 1916. As a matter of fact Lakeland has more than trebled its population since the census of 1920, the city having permanent resident population of 21,700 to-day. It is virtually impossible to compare the Lakeland of January 1, 1925, with the Lakeland of January 1, 1905, and at the same time realize that this is the same municipality created in 1884 by A. G. Munn. The intervening years, especially from 1920 on, have brought with them an era of progress that hardly can be duplicated by any other municipality in the State.

The basic consideration for Lakeland's past progress and its conceded future development, is its natural location in the hills of what is popularly supposed to be a "flat state." The city is made and its soundness is judged by its progress and its possibilities, hence, Lakeland's achievement. To-day Lakeland has the distinction of being located in the wealthiest county in America and largest citrus producing county in the world. It is in the heart of the citrus belt truck farming, and the phosphate mining country, and with the exception of Jacksonville and Tampa, both port cities, Lakeland offers transportation facilities greater than any other city in the State.

That Lakeland's growth is unabated may be gleamed from the fact that during the last year the municipally owned light and water plant showed a net profit of $75,000.

Officials of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad have just announced an increase of $680,000 in freight receipts for 1924, as against 1923, the receipts for 1924 totaling $1,700,000.00.

Another indication of the growth which Lakeland is experiencing, may be ascertained in the report of the Lakeland Gas Company showing 1,333 meters in operation January 1, 1924, as against 1,798 on January 1, 1925.

The best barometer of the growth of Lakeland is to be seen in the bank clearings. Clearings for the four Lakeland banks total $88,011,566.97 during 1924, as against the total for the last seven months of 1923, figures prior to that time not being available, of $4,495,229.05. The last seven months of 1924 shows a gain of $18,036.95 over the same period of 1923. The total for the last seven months of 1924 $984,152.75 greater than the last seven months of 1923, the December, 1924, total, of $10,344,616.38 is $4,453.664.00 greater than the December, 1923, total of $5,880,952.38.

The postal receipts for 1924, or $73,806.00, show an unusual increase over 1923, the total for the year being $59,899.50, as compared with the receipts for 1902 of $4,069.09. Bank deposits for the close of December 31, 1924, total, $6,091,484.10, as compared with $3,385,884.00 on December 31, 1923, the total gain being $2,705,600.10.

During 1924, bond issues totaling $2,474,000 were passed in Lakeland, which will give this city, among other things, some of the most beautiful municipal buildings to be found anywhere in the State. In 1923, the total area of the city was but four square miles. On December 30, 1924, citizens of Lakeland voted to annex twenty-six square miles of territory, making the area to-day thirty square miles. The suburban developments of 1924 total $7,000,000, as compared with $2,500,000 for 1923, a total gain of $4,500,000.

During 1924, 520 residences, costing $1,282,275, were erected in Lakeland. The building total for 1924 was $2,841,441.00, as compared with $2,153,715.00 for 1923. Despite the fact that 1924 total is $688,236 greater than that of 1923, it must be taken into consideration that in 1923 a permit for the $750,000 Lakeland Terrace Hotel was issued thereby making the 1924 increase smaller in comparison.

It may be conservatively estimated that building totaling approximately $1,000,000.00 was completed on the outskirts of the corporate limits for which no permits were issued, which by virtue of the recent annexation of twenty-six miles of territory, should rightfully be included in the 1924 building, thereby bringing the grand total to $3,841,441. There is every indication that the 1925 building total will be unduly large, it having been definitely announced that five new buildings, totaling in cost $1,015,000; a new 10-story hotel costing $750,000, and an office building, ten stories in height, costing around $450,000, are to be erected.

Lakeland's greatest ambition, no doubt, is to become a city of at least 35,000 by 1930. There is every indication that this figure, however conservative, will be reached prior to that time. Lakeland's second ambition is to become a city known throughout the United States, as being the most beautiful and hospitable municipality in the United States. And if the word picture above, which could be most appropriately named PROGRESS, in which only the best barometers have been used to indicate the development of Lakeland, is of any consequence, then Lakeland's cherished ambitions are already assured.

[Source: The Book of Florida; Pages 91 through 106. Published by The Florida Editors Association; 1925.] Transcribed and submitted by Sheila Pitts Massie.

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