In 1882, Abraham Munn came down from Louisville, KY and bought 80 acres of land in an unnamed part of Central Florida. In 1884, he platted the land and on January 1, 1885, the town of Lakeland was incorporated. Thankfully, the name “Redbug” was rejected. The original 80 acres is where Downtown Lakeland stands today. The railroad came to town and by the mid-1890’s 25 trains per day were stopping in Lakeland.
Citrus and strawberries were big business and by 1894 Lakeland was shipping more strawberries than any other place in the state. In 1898, 9,000 troops were stationed in Downtown Lakeland on the shores of Lakes Wire and Morton awaiting embarkation for Cuba during the Spanish-American War. And the railroad played an ever increasing role in the development of Lakeland’s economy. There was a time when Lakeland was the third largest city in Florida, behind Tampa and Jacksonville.
The area around Lake Mirror was designed to be a true community center based on Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr.’s City Beautiful movement. The city continued to grow out from Downtown, and as happened to may city centers was all but forgotten. In the 1970’s the city started efforts to revitalize the historic Downtown area. This effort focused on redeveloping and rehabilitating the landscape and buildings, creating beautiful parks and green spaces and brought Downtown back to her former glory.
Today, Downtown Lakeland is a vital and enjoyable place for residents and visitors. It has been dubbed “Lakeland’s living room” and truly embodies the community spirit of Lakeland.