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GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN: BUILDINGS FROM LAKELAND'S PAST

INTRODUCTION


The home of Congressman Herbert Drane

The city of Lakeland has an enviable record in recent years of preserving many of its historically and architecturally significant buildings. The Lakeland Terrace Hotel on the corner of East Main and Massachusetts is the largest and most significant, but there have been several others saved from neglect and the wrecking ball. Among those buildings saved through the efforts of Historic Lakeland, the Historic Preservation Board of Lakeland, city officials, developers, and residential owners are the Coca-Cola Building, the John Cox Elementary School, the Lawton Chiles Middle School (old Lakeland High School), Mosswood, the Polk Theater, the Park Trammell Building, and much of the early twentieth century downtown business district. Most recently those efforts have resulted in the preservation of the former New Florida Hotel on Massachusetts Avenue and its conversion to market rate apartments.

The city has also created a number of historic districts to preserve the architectural heritage of its earliest neighborhoods. That downtown jewel, the Lake Mirror Promenade has been restored to its late 1920's grandeur due to the efforts of Historic Lakeland, city officials, and concerned citizens. In addition to preserving architecturally significant buildings, preservation activities have established a culture in the city which encourages building owners to think first of preserving and finding alternative uses for older buildings rather than demolishing them to put up new structures.

Sadly, such was not always the case in Lakeland. The forces of "urban renewal" held sway nationally and in Lakeland in the decades of the fifties, sixties, and seventies. As a result, many of Lakeland's older buildings fell to the wrecking ball in the name of progress. Others were victims of benign neglect, ignored until they were beyond repair and had to be demolished. It was as a result of what many perceived to be this wanton destruction of the city's architectural heritage that Historic Lakeland and the Lakeland Historic Preservation Board were born.

The more balanced approach to preservation vs. progress advocated by these groups has made for a more architecturally balanced city, one in which the old and the new complement each other. Who can say what the buildings depicted in this exhibit would have contributed to that balance? The buildings are gone now, preserved only in photographs and postcards. They are, however as much a part of the city's architectural history as the Lakeland Terrace, the Polk Theater, and Mosswood.

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