Lakeland's Polk Theatre: History, Entertainment and Old Florida
By Gary McKechnie
There was a time when the theatre was as much a part of the show as the actual performance. You get that sense at Lakeland’s Polk Theatre, the 1928 vaudeville/movie palace that retains its elegance and grandeur.
I was there years ago and I have the urge to go back. And I will soon, because it has a full calendar of cultural events (films, speakers, awards presentations, musicals, guided tours, etc.) and the whole theater is a load of historic eye candy. If you love atmospheric theaters, come here and marvel at the elaborate columns, brass-banded terrazzo floors and an auditorium that looks like a Mediterranean village sleeping beneath a blanket of twinkling stars and puffy clouds. Honest. The stars twinkle.
In addition to being a movie house, live shows were (and are) staged here. In its history, the Polk Theatre has welcomed Tommy Dorsey, Harry James, Gene Krupa, Eddy Arnold, Tom Mix, Gene Autry, Glenn Miller and Elvis Presley. Now keep in mind Elvis visited in 1956, his breakout year, and the photos taken then (many of which were shot at the Polk) have become part of Elvis lore and American musical history. And his signature, penned on his dressing room wall, has been preserved to this day.
When you’re in Lakeland, visit the Polk Theatre. It is history, entertainment and Old Florida all rolled into one.
If You Go...
139 South Florida Avenue