Towns and Cities

[Source: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/5231

Lakeland's First Bakery
Part owner, Dr. John Griffin, is on the right


One of the radiant gems of South Florida's many new yet rapidly developing towns is Lakeland, the growth of a little more than a year. It has a fresh, thrifty, prosperous and substantial appearance, while in every direction are made manifest the evidences of resolute vigor and determination. The face of the country is beautifully rolling, carpeted with thrifty grasses and covered in vigorous growths of oak, pine, etc. At frequent intervals the surface is indented with bright jewels in the shape of lovely clear-water lakes of varied form and size, wherein are mirrored the beauties of nature; the form and foliage of a thrifty and delightful vegetation, the fleeting clouds, the twinkling stars, the soft radiance of Luna, night's resplendent queen, or the bright effulgence of Old Sol, the glorious king of day.

Lakeland is situated near the central part of Peninsular Florida, and of the lovely and attractive County of Polk, as well as in the highest, most healthful and delightful portion. The railroad survey gives it an elevation of 210 to 217 feet above the sea level. Here is found a great and pleasing variety of scenery, some of the deep, clear-water lakes with their clean, hard, grass-covered banks, being from forty to sixty feet below the higher points of the plateau. They are not grassy ponds, but pure, deep-water lakes, whose banks afford the most delightful and healthful of sites for residences, for lovely homes, and they are being appropriated quite rapidly. There are nine of these attractive sheets of water within a radius of a mile of the town, almost entirely free from mud and marsh, and abounding in fish, giving delightful opportunities for recreation, as they are situated in every direction from the centre. They also give delightful views, and the air passing over them is imbued with an inspiriting freshness.

The surface soil is varied, none being below the average, while a peculiar feature of the soil on some of the elevations is that it is almost as rich as hammock, and preferable for many reasons. Fruits and vegetables thrive and yield magnificent returns. At a depth of two to eight feet, and outcropping at some places, is a sub-soil of yellow clay. The water is excellent.

The beautiful forests are fast disappearing and in their place are scores of handsome and substantial buildings, thrifty groves and cultivated fields. Everywhere is heard the ceaseless hum of busy industry, transforming the face of nature. The South Florida Railroad passes through the incipient city from east to west and the Florida Southern coming from the north here forms a junction with it. The expectation is that it will soon be extended to Charlotte Harbor on the south.

Section 18, Township 28 south, Range 24 east, is the centre of the corporation, which also embraces portions of Sections 7 and 19 in the same Township and Range, all of Section 13 and parts of 12 and 24 in Township 28, Range 23, thus embracing two whole sections and parts of four others, and that, too, in one of the most delightful, agreeable and satisfactory parts of Florida, as regards deliciousness of climate, healthfulness of location, excellence of water, freedom from insect and other pests, general fertility and productiveness of soil, exemption from destructive frosts and freezes, genial breezes and salubrity of atmosphere, excellence of society, active, enthusiastic and vigorous energy of the rapidly-increasing population, handsome and substantial character of business edifices and private residences, ease and facility of communication with other parts, by railroads, telegraph, etc., and numerous other attractions that will suggest themselves to the visitor.

Lakeland is regularly laid out, with broad streets crossing each other at right-angles. In the centre is a park of three acres, that is to be adorned with trees, shrubbery, etc. To the north of this is the elegant depot of the South Florida Railroad. Around this double square, the town, which was incorporated January 1st, 1885, is rapidly assuming an undeniable substantiability, about two hundred buildings having already been constructed, while more are under contract yet in February, 1884, there was only one rough frame building and two log shanties for the railroad hands. Now there are several fine hotels, numerous general merchandise stores, hardware, feed and drug stores, restaurants, boarding houses, pool-rooms, express, telegraph and post-offices, saw and planing mills, shoemaker's shop, livery stable, millinery, gent's and ladies' furnishing goods, real estate and other offices, in fact the usual variety of avocations of some six hundred inhabitants. Also, well conducted schools, churches, etc., and a wide-awake newspaper, the Lakeland News, L. M. Ballard, Editor and Proprietor. He is also the proprietor of the North-Side Hotel.

Prominent among the real estate agents, with handsome and convenient offices centrally located, are Green & Munn, Torrence & Bristow, Scott & Roquemore, who will furnish all desired information regarding lands in this vicinity and other parts of South Florida.

NEWMAN & CO. have a pleasant store and a fine stock of gent's and ladies' furnishing goods, boots and shoes, notions, etc.

O. J. FRIER has an extensive and well selected stock of general merchandise, at satisfactory prices.

W. B. BONAKER, dealer in general merchandise, endeavors to meet every demand in that direction, at prices to suit.

S. L. & H. J. DRANE, druggists and apothecaries, are well prepared to fill any demands in their line.

Society is decidely intellectual and progressive here, as is shown by the excellent schools, the several religious' and other societies, the Methodist, Baptists and Presbyterians all having organized and energetic societies, while the schools are well sustained, and very prosperous under the management of capable teachers.

Town lots sell for from $50 to $1,000, according to size and location, while outlying lands are from $2.50 to $100 per acre, according to distance from the centre, quality, and desirability of location.

The vigorous growth and advantages of Lakeland and Polk County have been well shown by the enterprising real-estate agents, Torrence & Bristow, who last yeara published an excellent pamphlet that had a wide circulation, and gave much desired information.

[Source: Homeland; a description of the climate, productions, resources, topography, soil, opportunities, attractions, advantages, development and general characteristics of Polk County, Florida. By Sherman Adams, 1885.; Tigner, Tatum & Company, Bartow, Florida. Transcribed by Sheila Pitts Massie, Coordinator.]

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