• Polk County
  • Year Founded: 1885
  • Founded by: Abraham Munn


Abraham G. Munn, a wealthy manufacturer from Louisville, Kentucky, moved to the area in 1881 and is credited with founding the town. With S.A. Hartwell, Mr. Munn formed the Lakeland Improvement Company. At the time of incorporation, Lakeland featured an important railroad junction, an express and telegraph office, six hotels, several churches, a grade academy and several mercantile establishments. Five arc lights were turned on in 1891 to make Lakeland the third city in Florida to have electric lights. The population was 1,180 in 1901 and the city passed its first $10,000 bond issue for school construction. Fires ravaged 21 businesses, residences, two hotels and three office buildings in 1904. Three months later, another fire destroyed a downtown block. More fires hit again in 1906 and 1908. The population increased to 3,719 by 1910. City sewers were laid and a 1,700-seat auditorium was built on Lake Mirror in 1912. Then followed an aggressive program of paving streets with bricks. The present form of government (council-manager) was established after World War I. The Morrell Memorial Hospital was opened in 1916. Florida Southern College moved to Lakeland in 1922. Today, the city operates the third municipal electric utility established in the state and is known as a medical center for the state

Story of City’s Founding

Lakeland, Florida was incorporated January 1, 1885. The town was founded by Abraham Munn, who purchased 80 acres of land in what is now downtown Lakeland in 1882 and platted the land for the town in 1884. Munn was a resident of Louisville, Kentucky. For a short time, Lakeland had a rival on the south side of Lake Parker, the largest lake in the city. That town was Acton. It had a church before Lakeland did, and more importantly, a railroad depot. Under mysterious circumstances the depot burned, and shortly thereafter a larger, modern structure was built in Lakeland. Acton began to decline and was gone by 1906. By the mid-1890’s some 25 trains were stopping in Lakeland each day. Because of the excellent railroad service, progressive outlook, attractive location and elevation (227 feet), the community grew and prospered.

Historical Sites

Name: Florida Southern College
Location: 111 Lake Hollingsworth Drive
Historical Significance: Largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture