Bartow Florida

By Damon Duvall
Tue, Dec 19, 2023 at 2:25PM

Welcoming You To Bartow Traveling South From Lakeland FL
Welcoming You To Bartow Traveling South From Lakeland FL

Exploring The City Of Bartow FL: A Comprehensive Guide to the Heart of Polk County

Nestled amid the vibrant hues of Florida’s natural landscapes, Bartow FL greets its visitors with a charming blend of historic elegance, cultural richness, and inviting weather. This county seat of Polk County, often referred to as the ‘City of Oaks and Azaleas,’ captivates with its lush greenery, cultural charm, and distinctive southern culture.

Polk County FL

Bartow Highlights

  • Bartow, FL is the county seat of Polk County, acting as an important administrative center with historic landmarks such as the 1920s Classical Revival-styled Polk County Courthouse.

  • The cultural landscape of Bartow includes prominent events like the Annual Bloomin’ Arts Festival, alongside museums and libraries that enrich the community’s access to arts and historical knowledge.

  • Bartow’s economy is bolstered by sectors such as government, mining, and agriculture, with a history rooted in the phosphate industry and a growing presence in manufacturing and technology.

Discovering Bartow: The County Seat of Polk County

Historic Polk County Courthouse in Bartow FL

Bartow’s significance extends beyond its picturesque landscape. As the county seat of Polk County, it serves as a vital administrative hub, hosting the majority of the county’s administrative services including the courthouse and various county administration offices. The city’s cultural legacy is evident in its public services like the Polk County Library Cooperative, which play a significant role in the county’s operations.

The city’s nickname, ‘City of Oaks and Azaleas,’ underscores its natural beauty and cultural charm. Wander through its streets, and you’ll find a city that takes great pride in its distinctive southern culture, offering a warm welcome to residents and visitors alike.

The Historic Polk County Courthouse

A testament to Bartow’s rich architectural heritage is the Historic Polk County Courthouse. This stunning edifice, located in downtown Bartow, was designed in 1923-24 in the Classical Revival style by the Houston architectural firm of McLelland & Fink. The courthouse’s unique silver dome has been an enduring presence in the community for more than a century, reflecting Bartow’s small city heritage.

Preserving the charm and stability of this historic structure has been a key focus over the years. The courthouse underwent substantial restoration from 1988 to 1996, with specific focus on its exterior. The Bartow Fire Department plays a vital role in maintaining the safety of the city’s historical structures.

Administrative Heart

Bartow’s role as the county seat extends beyond its courthouse. The city hosts a variety of county administrative services, functioning as the primary center for government operations in Polk County. The City of Bartow provides a wide range of public services to its residents, including:

  • Public Works

  • City clerk services

  • Finance services

  • Utility billing

All of these services are provided within a commission-manager government framework. Polk County supplements these services with offerings such as landfill management and household hazardous waste processing, solidifying Bartow’s importance in South Florida.

Bartow is home to numerous government offices, including:

  • City Hall

  • Bartow Police Department

  • Fire Department

  • Public Works Department

  • Parks and Recreation Department

  • Planning and Zoning Department

Comprehensive information regarding these offices is available on the official website of the City of Bartow. This central position in the county’s administration was designated in 1861, largely influenced by Bartow’s central location, making it a strategic choice for administrative functions.

Bartow's Cultural Tapestry

Bartow's Cultural Tapestry

One of the city’s crowning jewels is its vibrant arts scene. At the heart of this cultural landscape is the Annual Bloomin’ Arts Festival. This entirely volunteer-run art exhibition takes place on the first full weekend of March and has evolved into a prominent event in Central Florida. It showcases a diverse array of fine arts, including:

  • glasswork

  • painting

  • watercolors

  • jewelry

  • clay

The festival also offers other attractions such as a quilt show, flower show, and student art tent.

Bartow’s museums and libraries further enrich the city’s cultural tapestry. Visitors can delve into local history at institutions like the Polk County Historical Museum and Bartow Public Library. These establishments offer a glimpse into the region’s past and present, preserving historical records and encouraging community involvement.

Annual Bloomin' Arts Festival

The Annual Bloomin’ Arts Festival, organized by the Polk Arts Alliance, has been a fixture in Bartow’s cultural scene for over half a century. This illustrious event takes place on Main Street and surrounding areas near the Polk Historical Museum. Attendees can anticipate a varied selection of artwork and crafts, including:

  • Traditional paintings

  • Stone drawings

  • Leatherwork

  • Glass sculptures

The festival not only showcases a diverse range of artists, craftsmen, and art enthusiasts, but it also significantly contributes to Bartow’s economy. Drawing approximately 25,000 attendees over two days, it stimulates local commerce as visitors participate in various activities such as viewing artwork and dining at food trucks.

Coupled with live music performances, food vendors, and interactive art experiences, the festival creates a lively and engaging community atmosphere.

Museums and Libraries

Bartow’s museums offer a gateway to the city’s history. The Polk County Historical Museum and the Bartow History Museum are the city’s most renowned institutions. Visitors to these museums can explore the Weinman Mineral Gallery, which showcases one of the largest collections of minerals in the Southeast.

Conversely, the city’s libraries serve as a rich source of knowledge and information. From books and magazines to unique record collections containing items such as mercantile receipts and voter lists, these libraries provide a wealth of information for residents and visitors alike.

Living in Bartow: Real Estate and Population Insights

Real Estate and Population Insights in Bartow FL

Making Bartow home comes with a unique blend of affordability and comfort. The city’s median house value is $198,763, and the median gross rent stands at $934, making it an affordable place to live.

Moreover, Bartow’s population density of 1,732 individuals per square mile provides a relatively uncrowded living environment, making it an ideal place for those seeking a quieter, small-town lifestyle.

Housing Market Overview

A closer examination of the housing market in Bartow reveals the following:

  • The median rental rate is $1,495.

  • There are a variety of options for current residents and prospective inhabitants.

  • The city continues to grow and develop, with approximately 300 new houses constructed within the past year.

Population Dynamics

Bartow’s population is estimated to be around 19,823, making it a smaller city compared to other cities in Polk County, such as:

  • Lakeland

  • Winter Haven

  • Lake Wales

  • Haines City

  • Davenport

Despite its smaller size, the city’s population continues to grow, adding to its vibrant community and contributing to its unique charm.

Education and Youth in Bartow

Education holds a central role in the Bartow community. Bartow High School, distinguished by a variety of programs including a selective International Baccalaureate (IB) program and a public service academy, consistently performs above the national average.

For students looking to further their education beyond high school, Bartow offers a diverse range of post-secondary education options, including:

  • Polk State College

  • Traviss Technical College

  • Various Career Academies

  • Accredited trade and technical colleges

Bartow High School and Beyond

Bartow High School boasts a commendable four-year graduation rate of 95% and demonstrates proficient academic performance, positioning it at the forefront of academic achievement among high schools in Polk County. This academic excellence has fostered the development of many notable figures, including:

  • Walter Clayton Jr.

  • Marcus Floyd

  • Katherine Harris

  • Jason Odom

  • Adam Putnam

All of whom graduated from Bartow High School.

Polk State College Presence

Polk State College plays a significant role in shaping Bartow’s education environment and enhances the economic development of southern Polk County. Offering a wide range of programs, including:

  • Associate in Arts (AA) degree

  • Associate in Science (AS) degree

  • Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) degree

  • Various certificate programs

The college caters to diverse academic interests.

Moreover, the college extends its impact beyond academics through community outreach programs such as mentoring programs, career development workshops, and community service initiatives.

The Economic Pulse of Bartow

Economic Pulse of Bartow FL

Key sectors like government, mining, and agriculture serve as the pillars of Bartow’s economy. Major employers in the area include:

  • Polk County School Board

  • Bartow Regional Medical Center

  • The City of Bartow

  • Polk County Government

Over the years, the city’s business landscape has evolved, transitioning from being primarily focused on the phosphate industry to developing a diverse economy, with the involvement of companies like Clear Springs Land Company.

Phosphate Industry Legacy

The phosphate industry has a deep-rooted history in Bartow, dating back to the 1880s, when phosphate pebbles were first unearthed in the Peace River. This industry has had a substantial influence on the economy of Bartow, fostering job creation and economic expansion, and attracting investment and infrastructure development in the region.

Emerging Business Landscape

Bartow is not just bound by its history. The city is witnessing growth in industries such as medical manufacturing, tech-enabled manufacturing, and pharmaceutical manufacturing. The city provides a welcoming business environment with quality of life and first-rate attractions as incentives to attract new businesses.

Bartow's Natural Beauty and Climate

Bartow’s natural splendor parallels its rich historical and cultural allure. The city boasts numerous outdoor attractions and a pleasant climate, including:

  • Average high temperatures ranging from the mid-60s to low 70s (°F) during winter

  • Average high temperatures ranging from the low to mid-90s (°F) in the summer

  • An average of about 50 inches of annual rainfall, contributing to the lush greenery and natural landscape.

Sunny and Mild Winters

Bartow’s winter climate is particularly appealing. The city experiences sunny and mild winters, with an average temperature of approximately 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Celsius). This mild and pleasant climate provides ideal conditions for outdoor activities, allowing residents and visitors to enjoy a range of activities comfortably.

Lake Hancock and Peace River

The city’s natural beauty extends to its recreational areas, particularly Lake Hancock and Peace River. Lake Hancock provides excellent fishing opportunities and a trail that meanders through various habitats for wildlife observation and nature exploration.

The Peace River, on the other hand, holds geographical significance due to its proximity to the city’s source, which has had a crucial impact on Bartow’s history and development.

Getting Around Bartow: Transportation and Accessibility

Bartow, despite its charming small-town feel, boasts excellent connectivity. The city is serviced by major roads like U.S. Route 17, U.S. Route 98, and State Road 60, ensuring easy access to nearby cities and attractions.

Bartow’s prime location, just about 39 miles east of the Tampa Bay Area, ensures easy commuting and regional travel.

Main Street and Broadway Avenue

Within the city, Main Street and Broadway Avenue stand out. Main Street holds historical significance due to its association with the Old Polk County Courthouse and is recognized as the Florida Main Street Program of the Month, an initiative supported by the Florida Governor.

Broadway Avenue, on the other hand, hosts various events and houses institutions such as the Bartow Public Library, contributing to the city’s vibrant cultural landscape.

Connectivity to Tampa and Orlando

Bartow’s reach goes beyond its city boundaries. Highways and roads like State Road 60 (SR 60) and the Central Polk Parkway link Bartow to Tampa and Orlando, providing easy access to these major cities.

Public transportation options can be accessed through the Moovit app, offering guidance on the nearest public transit stations.


In conclusion, Bartow is a city rich in history, boasting a vibrant arts scene and a warm, inviting climate. Its role as the county seat of Polk County, combined with its natural beauty, cultural landscape, and economic vibrancy, makes it a unique place to visit and live.

From exploring the historic Polk County Courthouse to enjoying the Annual Bloomin’ Arts Festival, from delving into the city’s phosphate industry legacy to basking in its sunny and mild winters, Bartow offers a unique blend of experiences. So, if you’re looking for a city that combines the charm of a small town with the vibrancy of cultural and economic dynamism, Bartow is the place to be.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Bartow Florida a good place to live?

Yes, Bartow, Florida is a great place to live, offering a peaceful environment especially suited for military retirees and their families.

What is the population of Bartow Florida 2023?

The population of Bartow, Florida in 2023 is 19,823, with an annual growth rate of 0.96%. The most recent census in 2020 recorded a population of 19,262.

What is the historic district of Bartow Florida?

The historic district of Bartow, Florida includes the Northeast Bartow Historic Residential District with 27 buildings dating from 1886 to 1925, and the Bartow Downtown Commercial District, bounded by Davidson and Summerlin Streets and Broadway and Florida Avenues, consisting of twenty-one contributing properties. It is an area rich in history and architectural significance.

What is the history of the city of Bartow?

Bartow was founded in October 1851 as Fort Blount by Readding Blount and his family, and it saw its first permanent settlers in the 1850s near the "Peas River."

What is the significance of Bartow within Polk County?

Bartow is significant within Polk County as it serves as the county seat and an essential administrative center, hosting the courthouse, county administration offices, and the Polk County Library Cooperative all right here in the city of Bartow FL.

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