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Polk County, Florida
Seal of Polk County, Florida
Map of Florida highlighting Polk County
Location in the state of Florida
Map of the U.S. highlighting Florida
Florida's location in the U.S.
Founded 8 February 1861
Seat Bartow
Largest city Lakeland
 - Total
 - Land
 - Water

2,009.99 sq mi (5,206 km²)
1,874.38 sq mi (4,855 km²)
135.60 sq mi (351 km²), 6.75%
 - (2010)
 - Density

321/sq mi (124.01/km²)

Polk County is a county located in the U.S. state in Florida. The county seat is Bartow.[1] Its largest city is Lakeland. The center of population of Florida is located in the city of Lake Wales within Polk County.[2]

The 2000 Census put the county's population at 483,924. The United States Census Bureau estimated the county population in 2006 to be 561,606.[3]According to a July 2009 estimate, the county had a population of 583,403.[4]

Polk County is coextensive with the Lakeland-Winter Haven, Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area, a metropolitan statistical area (MSA) designated by the Office of Management and Budget and used for statistical purposes by the Census Census and other agencies. Lakeland and Winter Haven are designated as the MSA's principal cities. The Lakeland-Winter Haven, Florida Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area was first defined in 1973. Winter Haven was removed as a principal city in 2003, but was added again in 2007.[5]

Lakeland is the most populous city in Polk county, with a 2006 population of 89,108. The other main Polk municipalities of Bartow (the county seat) with a 2005 population of 16,278, Winter Haven, Lake Wales, and Haines City are smaller: Winter Haven had a 2007 population of 32,577, all other cities had populations below 16,000. In 2000 only 37% of county residents lived in incorporated metropolitan areas.[6]

Winter Haven is best known as the home of Cypress Gardens, a theme park which has recently gone through renovations to add thrill rides. Country musician Gram Parsons was from a wealthy family in Winter Haven. Winter Haven was also home to the first Publix supermarket circa 1930. The town of Bartow was named in honor of Francis S. Bartow, the first Confederate officer to die in the American Civil War.

Growth in Polk County is driven by nearness to both the Tampa and Orlando metropolitan areas along the Interstate 4 corridor. Recent growth has been heaviest in Lakeland (closest to Tampa) and the Northeast areas near Haines City (nearest to Orlando). From 1990-2000, unincorporated areas grew 25%, while incorporated areas grew only 11%. In addition to developing cottage communities for commuters, there is evidence in Haines City of suburban sprawl into unincorporated areas.

Polk County is the headquarters of Publix Supermarkets, a regional grocery chain and Polk's top private employer, as well as W. S. Badcock Corporation, Watkins Motor Lines, Saddle Creek Corporation, and IMC Agrico. Polk's location along the I-4 corridor is attracting warehouse and fulfillment center development in the north part of the county.

History[edit | edit source]

US President James Knox Polk

The first people to call Polk County home arrived close to 12,000 years ago during the last ice age as the first paleo-indians arrived on the peninsula of Florida as they followed big game southward.[7][8] By this time, the peninsula had gone through several expansions and contractions; at times the peninsula was much wider than it is today, while at other times it was almost entirely submerged with only a few small islands above sea level. These first paleo-indians were nomadic hunter/gatherers who did not establish any permanent settlers and they eventually gave way to the "archaic people" who were the ancestors of the Indians who came in contact with the Spaniards when they arrived on the peninsula. These Indians thrived on the peninsula and it is estimated that there were over 250,000 in 1492 when Columbus set sail for the New World. As was common elsewhere, the Indians' contact with Europeans had a devastating effect on the Indians. Small Pox, Measles and other diseases the Indians had no immunity for caused widespread epidemic and death.[8][9] Those who had not succumbed to diseases such as Small Pox or Yellow Fever were either killed or enslaved. Eventually the remnants of these tribes would merge together with Creek Indians who arrived from the north and become the Seminole Indian tribe.[8] Within a few hundred years, nearly the entire pre-columbian population of Polk County had been wiped out. The remnants of these Indians joined with renegade Creek Indians from Georgia and The Carolinas to form the Seminole Indian Tribe.

For around 250 years after Ponce De Leon arrived on the peninsula, the Spanish ruled Florida. In the late 17th century, Florida went through an unstable period in which the French and British ruled the peninsula. After the American Revolution, the peninsula briefly reverted back to Spanish rule. In 1819, Florida became a U.S. territory as a result of the Adams-Onis Treaty.

Polk County became Florida's 39th county on February 8, 1861, when the State of Florida divided Hillsborough County into eastern and western halves. The eastern half was named Polk, in honor of the 11th President of the United States, James Knox Polk. Polk was sworn in as president on the day after Florida's March 3, 1845 statehood.

Following the Civil War, the county commission established the county seat on 120 acres (0.49 km2) donated in the central part of the county. Bartow, the county seat, was named after Francis S. Bartow, a confederate Colonel from Georgia who was the first confederate officer to die in battle during the first battle of the Civil War. Colonel Bartow was buried in Savannah, GA with military honors, and promoted posthumously to the rank of brigadier general. Fort Blount, as Bartow was then known, in a move to honor one of the first fallen heroes of the Confederacy, was one of several towns and counties in the South that changed their name to Bartow. The first courthouse built in Bartow was constructed in 1867. It was replaced twice, in 1884 and in 1908. As the third courthouse to stand on the site, the present structure houses the Polk County Historical Museum and Genealogical Library.

Recent history[edit | edit source]

Growth in Polk County is driven by proximity to both the Tampa and Orlando metropolitan areas along the Interstate 4 corridor. Recent growth has been heaviest in Lakeland (closest to Tampa) and the Northeast areas near Haines City (nearest to Orlando). From 1990-2000, unincorporated areas grew 25%, while incorporated areas grew only 11%. In addition to developing cottage communities for commuters, there is evidence in Haines City of suburban sprawl into unincorporated areas. Despite the impressive growth rate, the unemployment rate of Polk has typically been higher than that of the entire state.[10] In August 2010, the county had an unemployment rate of 13.4% compared to 11.7% for the entire state.[10]

During the 2004 Atlantic hurricane season, three hurricanes, Charley, Frances and Jeanne all tracked over Polk County, intersecting in a triangle that includes the city of Bartow, Florida.[11]

Geography and climate[edit | edit source]

According to the 2000 census, the county has a total area of 2,009.99 square miles (5,205.9 km2), of which 1,874.38 square miles (4,854.6 km2) (or 93.25%) is land and 135.60 square miles (351.2 km2) (or 6.75%) is water.[12]

The Lakeland-Winter Haven Metropolitan Statistical Area encompasses the entirety of, and only, Polk County.

Adjacent counties[edit | edit source]

Due to its size and central location in the state, Polk County shares borders with more counties than any other in the state, ten:

Climate[edit | edit source]

Government and Politics[edit | edit source]

For most of its history, Polk County, like most other southern counties, was dominated by the Democratic Party a result of the Civil War and Reconstruction. The party's dominance in presidential races began to decline during the 1950s, although Polk County continued to vote reliably for Conservative Democrats in state and local races. Often, there would be no Republican Party candidate for local office, which under then current Florida law, meant the race was decided by Democrats in their primary.

What in fact existed was a non-partisan Florida political culture, best described by V.O. Key, Jr., in the classic, "Southern Politics," (Knopf, 1950) as "every man for himself." Coalitions gravitated around special economic interests. Polk County's role was magnified by the presence of two big-money industries, phosphate and citrus. Park Trammell, Spessard Holland, and Lawton Chiles each served in the legislature, as governor, as a U.S. senator. The county's political style, when not satisfying local industry, was small-town economic populist: building roads, schools, and parks, but wary of social liberalism.

A watershed moment in Polk County politics came with the election of Andy Ireland to Congress. Ireland was the first modern Polk politician without local roots, an outsider culturally and personally from a wealthy Ohio family and with an upper-class education at Andover and Yale. He moved to Winter Haven as a bank executive. His election reflected the growing factor of in-migrants, who were slowly weakening the deeply rooted local populist traditions. It was Ireland who set off a wave of party switching by moving from the Democratic party to the Republican party in 1984, taking career advantage of Ronald Reagan's popularity and grassroots distrust of national Democrats as the perceived party of racial integration and sexual license. Within a few years, there was a rapid switch of parties, both by many prominent political figures in the county and by the white public at large. By the early 1990s, Polk County had become one of the most reliably Republican counties in state. Native son Lawton Chiles continued to win U.S. Senate races from 1970 to 1982, and in the 90s was elected governor twice ironically without Polk's support.

Presidential elections results
Year Republican Democratic Other
2008 52.5% 46.3% 0.6%
2004 58.6% 40.8% 0.6%
2000 53.6% 44.6% 1.8%
1996 45.3% 44.4% 10.3%
1992 45.2% 35.3% 19.5%
1988 66.4% 33.0% 0.6%

Demographics[edit | edit source]

Historical populations
Census Pop.
1870 3,169
1880 3,181 0.4%
1890 7,905 148.5%
1900 12,472 57.8%
1910 24,148 93.6%
1920 38,661 60.1%
1930 72,291 87.0%
1940 86,665 19.9%
1950 123,997 43.1%
1960 195,139 57.4%
1970 227,222 16.4%
1980 321,652 41.6%
1990 405,382 26.0%
2000 483,924 19.4%
2010 602,095 24.4%
Polk County Comparative Demographics
U.S. Census Bureau, 2006 Est. Polk County[20] Florida[21] United States[20]
Total population 570,116 15,982,378 281,421,906
Owner-occupied housing, median value $150,400 $230,600 $185,200
Median household income $44,633 $45,495 $48,451
Families below poverty level 10.5% 9.0% 9.8%
Bachelor's degree or higher 17.8% 25.3% 27.0%
Foreign born 10.6% 18.9% 12.5%
White 77.7% 76.1% 73.9%
Black 13.7% 15.4% 12.4%
Hispanic (any race) 15.4% 20.1% 12.8%
Asian 1.4% 2.2% 4.4%

As of the census[22] of 2000, there were 483,924 people, 187,233 households, and 132,373 families residing in the county. The population density was 258 people per square mile (100/km²). There were 226,376 housing units at an average density of 121 per square mile (47/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 79.58% White, 13.54% Black or African American, 0.38% Native American, 0.93% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 3.82% from other races, and 1.71% from two or more races. 9.49% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. In 2000 only 37% of county residents lived in incorporated metropolitan areas.[23]

There were 187,233 households, of which 29.00% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.40% were married couples living together, 12.00% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.30% were non-families. 24.10% of all households were made up of individuals, and 11.10% have someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.52 and the average family size was 2.96.

In the county the population was spread out, with 24.40% under the age of 18, 8.30% from 18 to 24, 26.40% from 25 to 44, 22.50% from 45 to 64, and 18.30% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 96.30 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.10 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $36,036, and the median income for a family was $41,442. Males had a median income of $31,396, versus $22,406 for females. The per capita income for the county was $18,302. 12.90% of the population and 9.40% of families were below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 19.10% were under the age of 18 and 8.10% were 65 or older.

Municipalities[edit | edit source]

Polk County has seventeen incorporated municipalities, ranging in size from nearly 100,000 to around 250.

Municipalities of Polk County

Rank Name Population(2010 Est.) Established Area (miles2) Population Density (People/miles2)
1 Lakeland 93,967 1885 74.4 1,711
2 Winter Haven 34,691 1911 25.4 1,042
3 Haines City 18,762 1885 8.9 2,261
4 Bartow 17,397 1851 52.34 324
5 Auburndale 13,894 1911 9.3 1,186
6 Lake Wales 13,076 1911 14 728
7 Ft. Meade 5,744 1849 5 1,138
8 Lake Alfred 4,632 1913 8.6 452
9 Mulberry 3,368 1901 3.2 1,009
10 Dundee 3,284 1924 4.3 677
11 Eagle Lake 2,825 1921 1.4 1,782
12 Davenport 2,768 1920 1.7 1,131
13 Frostproof 2,764 1921 2.5 1,190
14 Polk City 1,692 1925 0.8 1,895
15 Lake Hamilton 1,395 1924 3.9 334
16 Hillcrest Heights 252 1923 0.2 1,330
17 Highland Park 248 1927 0.7 349

Economy[edit | edit source]

Polk County's economy has been historically based on three primary industries: citrus, cattle, and phosphate mining.

The discovery of phosphate rock in the Peace River, near Fort Meade, Florida in 1881, initiated the mining of the world's largest deposit of phosphate rock, known as the Bone Valley Deposit. This deposit, which encompasses approximately 500,000 acres (2000 km²) in Polk, Hillsborough, Hardee, and Manatee Counties, provides approximately 75% of the nation's phosphate supply and about 25% of the world supply. Approximately 200,000 acres (800 km²) or 15.3% of Polk County have been mined for phosphate rock. Polk continued to lead the state in 1998, with 14.7 million tons of phosphate rock mined. However, four straight years of low prices and weak demand for phosphate fertilizer led to a loss in sales in 2002. The industry's impact on the Polk County economy will continue to decline in the 21st Century as phosphate mining moves south into Hardee and Desoto Counties.

Chemical manufacturing plants located in Polk County are used to convert the insoluble phosphate rock into soluble products, such as diammonium phosphate and monoammonium phosphate, which are used in fertilizers and other products. There are numerous, other industries located in Polk County which support and rely on the phosphate mining industry. In October 2004, IMC Global, Inc. and Cargill Crop Nutrition merged into the Mosaic Co. This merger created the world's second largest fertilizer manufacturer with annual sales estimated at $4.5 billion. Mosaic employs more than 3,000 workers in Polk County at five active mines, Four Corners, Fort Green, Kingsford, South Fort Meade and Hookers Prairie; and two fertilizer plants, Bartow and New Wales (reputed to be the largest fertilizer plant in the world).

Polk County has the 2nd largest amount of farmland in the state with an estimated 626,634 acres (2536 km²) in 2002. Polk remains the sixth most productive agricultural county in Florida. The $878 million citrus industry employs approximately 8,000 people in Polk County. Polk ranked first in the state for total citrus picked for the 2003-04 season with an estimated total of 42.2 million boxes harvested. Polk also ranked first in the state in the amount of commercial citrus groves with approximately 95,050 acres (385 km²), 2004 estimate. In addition to citrus, Polk was ranked third in the state in 2004, in number of beef cattle with an estimated 105,000 head of beef and dairy cattle, according to the Florida Agricultural Statistics Service. Total receipts from the sale of crops and livestock in Polk County rose to $284.8 million in 2002 based upon a report released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis at the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Tourism is a strong economic force in Polk County and dates back to the dedication of Bok Tower Gardens in 1929 by President Calvin Coolidge. In the mid-1930s, the late Dick Pope, Sr. established the world famous Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven, Florida's first theme attraction, and will be replaced by the world's largest Legoland by the end of 2011.[24] Today, millions of people visit Polk County each year to enjoy these two attractions as well as Fantasy of Flight, the Sun 'N Fun Fly-In, and many more. Polk County is also located within 10mim drive of the Walt Disney World resort area, Universal Studios48min, SeaWorld45min, and Busch Gardens45min as well as {Island's of Adventure} Orlando. In addition to these attractions, Polk is the spring training headquarters for the Detroit Tigers (Lakeland). The county had an estimated total of 11,500 hotel, motel, rental condominium units and vacation rentals in 2004.

In recent years, Polk County has gained notoriety as a preferred venue for recreational and competitive sports on all levels. In 2001, the county hosted 140 sporting events that pumped in excess of $84 million into the local economy. This is in addition to $72 million generated by the Spring Training operation of the Detroit Tigers. Polk County Sports Marketing, the sports marketing arm of the Board of County Commissioners, was honored as Florida's "Sports Commission of the Year" by the Florida Sports Foundation for its success in promoting the county as a sports destination.

Today, phosphate mining, agriculture and tourism still play vital roles in the local economy. However, the county has successfully expanded and diversified its economic base in recent years. The primary mission of the Central Florida Development Council (CFDC) since its formation in 1985 by the Board of County Commissioners, has been to improve the standard of living for the citizens of Polk County by diversifying the economy through job creation in all industries. The CFDC has successfully worked with other industries to help them expand and relocate to Polk County. Polk County's central location within the large Florida marketplace has attracted numerous manufacturers and distribution centers in recent years.

Construction is a pillar of economic strength for Polk County with a record of 5,900 total permits issued for single family homes in 2004. This is an increase of approximately 68.7% over a total of 3,498 building permits issued in 2003 for single family homes. The total number of homes sold in 2004, was 5,300, an increase of 7.8% over a total of 4,918 homes sold in 2001.

Polk County is the headquarters of Publix Supermarkets, a regional grocery chain and Polk's top private employer (the first location was in Winter Haven), as well as W. S. Badcock Corporation, Watkins Motor Lines, Saddle Creek Corporation, and IMC Agrico. Polk's location along the I-4 corridor is attracting warehouse and fulfillment center development in the north part of the county.

Transportation[edit | edit source]

Education[edit | edit source]

Polk County Public Schools serves the county.

Universities and Colleges[edit | edit source]

Intelligent Design Controversy[edit | edit source]

In November 2007, four Polk County School Board members interviewed by The Ledger daily newspaper said they would support a resolution advising the Florida Board of Education to revise proposed science standards to include alternative theories to evolution.[25] Responses from the Flying Spaghetti Monster group, anti-creationist Wesley R. Elsberry, and others in the scientific community made the board retract their statements.[26]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  2. ^ United States Census Bureau
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Table 1. Annual Estimates of the Population of Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2009 (CBSA-EST2009-01)" (CSV). 2009 Population Estimates. United States Census Bureau, Population Division. 2010-03-23. Retrieved 2010-03-25. 
  5. ^ "Update of Statistical Area Definitions and Guidance on Their Uses (OMB Bulletin 08 - 01)" (CSV). Office of Management and Budget, Executive Office of the President. 2007-11-20. Retrieved 2008-11-19. 
  6. ^ Polk County Demographic Profile (Central Florida Development Council) - retrieved June 1, 2007 Archived February 3, 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ "Ancient Native". HOTOA. Retrieved 2010-09-09. 
  8. ^ a b c "Polk County History". Polk Counjty Historical Association. Retrieved 2010-09-11. 
  9. ^ Weibel, B. "Trail of Florida's Ancient Heritage". Retrieved 2010-09-09. 
  10. ^ a b "Unemployment Rate Polk County, FL". The Ledger. Retrieved 2010-10-08. 
  11. ^ Bossak, Brian H. (April 2005). ""X" Marks the Spot: Florida, the 2004 Hurricane Bull’s-Eye". Sound Waves. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved 26 March 2010. 
  12. ^ "Census 2000 U.S. Gazetteer Files: Counties". United States Census. Retrieved 2011-02-13. 
  13. ^ "Monthly Averages for Bartow, FL". The Weather Channel Interactive, Inc. 2010. Retrieved 2010-09-05. 
  14. ^ "Climatography of the United States No. 81 (1971–2000)" (PDF). National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 2002-02. Retrieved 2010-03-23. 
  15. ^ "Average Weather for Lakeland, FL - Temperature and Precipitation". Retrieved August 27, 2010. 
  16. ^ "Monthly Averages for Winter Haven, FL". The Weather Channel Interactive, Inc. 2010. Retrieved 2010-09-05. 
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ a b "Polk County, Florida Fact Sheet". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-05. 
  21. ^ "Florida Fact Sheet". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-05. 
  22. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  23. ^ Polk County Demographic Profile (Central Florida Development Council) - retrieved June 1, 2007
  24. ^,0,1659229.story
  25. ^ "Majority Opposes Science Proposal". The Ledger. Retrieved 2010-10-01. 
  26. ^ "Polk Needled, Noodled In Evolution Flap". TBO. Retrieved 2010-10-01. 

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Coordinates: 27°58′N 81°42′W / 27.96, -81.70

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