A campaign commemorating Florida's diverse cities.
Brought to you by the Florida League of Cities.
In 1922, Isaac Van Horn laid out a town in northwest Polk, which was given the name of Polk City. Mr. Van Horn realized what a great place this would be for a city and immediately began acquiring the two (2) square mile area that was to be the heart of Polk City. Mr. Van Horn was an investor, financial manager and a developer, and had financial connections in New York and New Jersey. Mr. Van Horn believed there was oil in the area so he had an oil drilling company come and set up their rigs just north of the city limits.
Water lines were being laid and electricity was being generated. The light poles were much shorter than what they are today. By mid – 1925 the Van Horn Building had been completed, Polk City Country Club & Golf Course, Polk City Chamber of Commerce, the Polk City Chronicle and the Polk City Mortgage & Finance Company; a bank building and the City Hall, with the Post Office located along the side of a large general store. The Wayside Lodge formally opened on Jan. 24, 1926. The school was constructed and opened on Nov. 19, 1926 with four classrooms housing grades from beginners thru the 8th grade.
A short time later, an airport, a train depot and a sawmill were added. After drilling for oil for about seven years, Mr. Van Horn realized there must not be any oil in Polk City. The oil drilling company moved out. Then came the nationwide “Financial Crash” of 1929 and the “Great Depression”. Then the stock market fell and thre was no kind of industry going on in Polk City to keep it alive. The population dropped from nearly 600 in 1930 to 203 in 1960. Negotiations began in the late 1940′s between Van Horn & Associates with Mrs. John R. Brandon of New Jersey being the principal bond holder and the City of Polk City transferred municipal property in exchange for the bonds, which left Polk City free on all indeptedness. Polk City was not the only city that was having a rough time, but all other cities and states were suffering due to the great depression.
There were people who were able to survive and stay in Polk City and they know in their hearts that Polk City was worth the hard times. Polk City “lived within it’s means” during the lean years” of the 50′s; 60′s and 70′s. They knew Polk City would be a city they would be proud of – a city that they would call home.
One day a fashionable man by the name of Isaac Van Horn came to Polk County from Boston. He stayed in Haines City for a short while. One Day Mr. Van Horn was passing through the area about the summer of 1922 - long before the days of auto air conditioning, when a long trip was hot and tiresome. As he chugged over the oak hill 250 feet above sea level on a clay road, going from north to south, he reached the shore of Lake Agnes and stopped to rest and cool off. As he looked over the rolling waves of Lake Agnes, gently being pushed to shore by a southeasterly breeze, being swayed to and fro, a sense of tranquility came over him and had a vision of a "Sweet New England Hill City", as his literature later described it. It was at the moment that Polk City was conceived in the mind and heart of Mr. Van Horn.