Historic Lakeland, Inc. is a private non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the historic and architectural resources of Lakeland, Florida. Its stated purpose is to "promote awareness, understanding, and an appreciation of Lakeland's history, and to insure the preservation of those things which represent the character of our city and are significant to our city."
What is now Historic Lakeland evolved from a 1977 meeting of the Lakeland Antique Collectors Club, at which Joan Jennewein of the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation was the featured speaker. Two members of the Antique Collectors Club, Jean Bunch and Mildred Grizzard, were inspired to organize a local preservation group in Lakeland. Their efforts took on a greater urgency when two of the city's older buildings, the ice house on Kathleen Road and the Webster Avenue School, were demolished.
Several Lakeland residents concerned with preserving the city's architectural heritage gathered for an organizational meeting at the Lakeland Downtown Development Authority's Information Center on June 7, 1979. Jean Bunch presided at the initial meeting of this as yet unnamed organization. Several names were suggested for the fledgling group and a vote resulted in a tie between Historic Lakeland and Lakeland Heritage. A flip of the coin determined the name to be Historic Lakeland.
Historic Lakeland, Inc. was incorporated in September 1979. Its first project, and one that continues to occupy its attention, was to restore the Lake Mirror Promenade to its former grandeur. After many years of hard work, that project is nearly completed and the Lake Mirror Promenade is once again a show case for the city.
The role of Historic Lakeland in preserving the architectural treasures of Lakeland goes beyond the Lake Mirror Promenade, however. The organization was instrumental in the creation of the city's Historic Preservation Board and in the establishment of historic districts throughout the city. It has worked with a variety of city agencies and private developers to restore such visible and historically significant structures as the Lakeland Terrace Hotel, the Polk Theatre, and the Marble Arcade. It annually recognizes owners of commercial and residential structures in Lakeland who have renovated and/or restored their properties in a manner consistent with the historic character of the structure and the area surrounding it.
Historic Lakeland has remained true to its mission throughout its existence. It has increased public awareness of, and concern for, the architectural heritage of Lakeland. It remains, to use the words of founding member Jean Bunch, ". . .a unified voice for preservation, not only of buildings and places, but of Lakeland's quality of life."
Historic Lakeland began publishing a newsletter shorty after its incorporation in 1979 to keep it members informed about the organizations activities, to promote the preservation of historically significant structures in the city, and to recognize those individuals and businesses who acted to save historic structures in the city. The newsletter in its various incarnations has been scanned and made available here.