Bartow is a historic, Southern town in Polk County, Florida. As county seat, there is a large difference in the number of people in the town during the day and the number of people who reside in Bartow.
While Florida was first obtained by the United States in 1819, the central and southern regions of this new territory remained largely uninhabited as a result of the hostile Seminole Indian tribe, heat, and the high humidity of the region. Following the end of the Second Seminole War in 1842, small groups of settlers began to trek into the interior of this region and build some of the first permanent settlements in this region, set up as forts to deter Seminole attacks. In 1851, the first permanent settlers reached this location near the headwaters of the Peace River and established Fort Blount (a quarter-mile west of the 1908 courthouse). The settlement remained small for many years. In 1861, Polk County was separated from Hillsborough County, with Fort Blout being chosen as the county seat. The Civil War halted development, but in 1867 county commissioners decided to rename Fort Blount in honor of Francis Bartow—the first Confederate officer to die in the war. A few years later, land donations from the cattle baron & largest landowner in the region, Jacob Summerlin, allowed the Polk County government and the city of Bartow to develop: 40 acres for the county government, 20 acres for a school, and 20 acres each for two churches. In 1887, the first brick schoolhouse south of Jacksonville was built and named "Summerlin Institute".
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The only feasible way to enter Bartow is by car. Bartow is located at the confluence of US 17, US 98, and SR 60.
Bus service is available from Lakeland or Winter Haven by the Citrus Connection bus service.
- Checker Cab Co., ☏ . Serves all of Polk County.
- Yellowcab/Maingate Taxi, ☏ . Serves all of Polk County.
- Polk County Taxi, ☏ , toll-free: . Serves all of Polk County.
- Polk County Historical Museum, 100 E Main St (On NE corner of Main & Broadway, across from county courthouse.), ☏ , toll-free: . Tu-F 9AM-5PM, Sa 9AM-3PM. Museum showcasing Polk County's history and housed in the historic, 1908 county courthouse. The building also houses the Polk County Historical & Genealogical Library (+1 863 534-4380). Free.
- L.B. Brown House Museum, 470 Second Ave, ☏ . M-F 8AM-5PM (By appointment only. Also open select holidays.). House on the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1892 by former slave and self-taught master carpenter L.B. Brown. Free.
- The Museum Room at the Bartow Airport, Bartow Municipal Airport & Industrial Park (Off U.S. 17, halfway between downtown Bartow & Eagle Lake, northeast of town.), ☏ . Daily 6AM-6PM. Memorabilia from the time when this airport served as a training center for air force recruits during WWII & the 1950s. Free.
- Bartow Art Guild, 1240 E Main St, ☏ . Art classes & workshops.
- Mary Holland Skate Park, 2015 Shumate Dr (Follow Broadway Ave south and into Mary Holland Park. Skate park is on right after the left curve.). Skate park.
- Bartow Golf Course, 150 Idlewood Ave, ☏ . Public, 18-hole course. Range, lessons, & golf club rental available. On-site restaurant. Slope rating: 126. USGA rating: 69.8.
There are two boat launches on the Peace River:
- Heritage Peace River Landing at 3301 Homeland Garfield Rd.
- Peace River Canoe Launch on the southeast side of the S.R. 60 crossing over the Peace River
- Bartow Antique Fair. second Saturday of each month. Antiques & collectibles vendors along Main Street, 9AM-3PM.
- Bartow's First Friday. third Friday of each month (except December). Neighborhood street festival with live music, food, games, and local vendors. 6PM-9PM.
- Bloomin' Arts Festival — March. Art festival
- Bartow Craft Fair — November. Over 100 craft booths & vendors. Car show. Food.
- George Street Christmas Lane — Follow the signs around dozens of residential blocks for a tour of holiday lights & decorations. Best enjoyed on Christmas Eve, although the traffic will be bumper-to-bumper through these neighborhoods.
- Apple Seeds, 115 E Main St, ☏ . M-F 10AM-5PM, Sa 10AM-3PM. Country home decor & gifts.
- Smith & Jones Antiques, 575 E Main St, ☏ . M-F 10AM-5:30PM, Sa 10AM-4PM. Fine antique furniture.
- Catfish Country, 2400 E.F. Griffin Rd (Near intersection of U.S. 98 & C.R. 540A, north of town), ☏ . Lunch & dinner Tu-Su. All-you-can-eat catfish or chicken in evenings. Other country foods also available.
- Cookie Jar Bakeshop, 305 E Main St (Corner of Main & Wilson), ☏ . Breakfast & lunch M-F. Various desserts & sweet treats. Light lunches, soups, & salads also available.
- Cool Shop Ice Cream Café, 135 S Central Ave, ☏ . Lunch & dinner M-Sa.
- Curly Tails Barbeque, 330 Old Winter Haven Rd, ☏ . Lunch & dinner M-F. Delicious barbeque.
- Fred's Southern Kitchen, 1380 N Broadway Ave, ☏ . Breakfast, lunch, & dinner daily (except no dinner Su).. Country/Southern fixins on a large buffet. Menu also available.
- Palace Pizza, 105 E Main St, ☏ . Lunch & dinner M-Sa. Authentic hand-made pizzas, calzones, & bread knots.
- Stanford on Main, 135 E Main St, ☏ . Breakfast & lunch M-Sa, dinner Th-Sa.
- Tearoom at the Stanford Inn B&B, 555 E Main St, ☏ . Lunch M-Sa (Oct-May only). Traditional English high tea & lunches.
- Good Life RV Resort, 6815 S.R. 60 E, ☏ , fax: . RV resort with 399 sites. Hookups. Dump station. Laundry. Showers. Pool. Pets allowed.
- Holiday Inn Express, 1565 N Broadway Ave, ☏ , fax: . Complimentary breakfast. Pool. Free wi-fi internet access.
- Stay Inn and Suites, 1035 N Broadway Ave, ☏ , toll-free: , fax: . Complimentary breakfast. Pool. Pets allowed. On-site restaurant. Free wi-fi internet access.
- The Stanford Inn, 555 E Stanford Ave, ☏ , fax: . Bed & breakfast. Six rooms with private baths available. Gourmet breakfast. Pool. Free wi-fi internet access.
- Alturas Post Office, 2760 3rd St, ☏ . M-F 8AM-noon. Located in Alturas—a small, rural community a few miles east of Bartow.
- Bartow Post Office, 220 S Central Ave, ☏ . M-F 9AM-4:30PM, Sa 10AM-noon.
- Bartow Public Library, 2150 S. Broadway Ave, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. M-Th & Sa 9AM-8PM, F 9AM-5PM. Computers and wi-fi internet access available for public use. Free guest passes for non-Polk County residents. Computers limited to two 1 hr sessions per day.