Florida has a rich and diverse history. African American landmarks and legacies exist in various locations throughout the state. The following historical sites can be found in Polk County. While some of these sites can be visited, other listings are marked "private" and are not open to the public.
Historic L.B. Brown House c. 1892
470 L.B. Brown Ave.
This Victorian-style house was built in 1892 by Lawrence Bernard Brown. Mr. Brown was a self-taught master carpenter who was born in slavery in 1856. Upon gaining his freedom, Brown invested in property in Bartow and built a large number of houses, which he sold or rented. Brown was a pioneer entrepreneur and a leading citizen in the Bartow community. Members of the Brown family lived in the home for nearly 100 years, until 1989. The house has been restored to its original condition and now houses a museum. It is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is open to the general public. Admission is free. (863) 534-0100, www.lbbrown.com.
First Providence Missionary Baptist Church
1030 West King Street
Organized in 1856 as the Providence Colored Baptist Church, the congregation is the oldest black church in Polk County. Known today as the First Providence Missionary Baptist Church, it is located in one of Polk County’s oldest settlements of West Bartow. West Bartow was originally called "Over The Branch" by the black citizens who lived there. The church served as the place where the first school for black children was housed and where the First South Florida Missionary Baptist District Association began in the 1890s. A number of other black statewide church groups were also started there.
Historic Evergreen Cemetery
Highway 60 West
This historic cemetery is located on 12 acres of land on the western edge of Bartow. One of the county’s oldest black cemeteries, it includes the headstone of Prince Johnson, one of four black men who, along with 18 white men, voted to incorporate the town of Bartow in 1882. The 1890s graves of Andy and his wife Tamer (Reed) Moore are also found there. Andy and Tamer Moore were brought to Bartow as slaves prior to the Civil War and remained after slavery ended, becoming prominent farmers in the Bartow community.
St. James African Methodist Church
765 S. Fourth Ave
This AME church started as a small wooden structure in 1894 and been a beacon in this thriving East Bartow community ever since. (863) 533-6109.
Bethune Neighborhood Center
8th Street and Avenue E
Formerly known as Oakland High School, this five building complex was a school for black children from Haines City, Loughman, Davenport, Lake Hamilton, Dundee and the unincorporated areas of Northeast Polk County. It is presently used for civil, recreational and educational functions. (863) 421-3725.
Buffalo Soldiers Encampment Historical Marker
20 Lake Wire Drive
One of four all-black regiments in the regular army at the outbreak of the Spanish American War, the 10th Cavalry camped at this site on the shore of Lake Wire in the spring of 1898 while awaiting transport to Cuba. The black regiments gained renown and the nickname “Buffalo Soldiers” as a result of their exploits in campaigns against the American Indians on the Western frontier.
115 East Street North
Roosevelt is Lake Wales’ only remaining historic school, and the historic site for African American education in Lake Wales. The largest building, constructed in 1937 is of masonry vernacular construction with Italian Renaissance elements.
Adapted from Florida Black Heritage Trail, published by the Florida Department of State, in partnership with VISIT
Additional information can also be found at: http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/milesmedia/floridablackheritage/