Settled in 1851, Bartow’s founders forged a home in Central Florida’s wilderness. As the nation went to war in 1861, so too did the men of the newly chartered Polk County. At wars end, reconstruction brought forward industrialists who laid railroads across Central Florida and positioned Bartow favorably for national and international commerce. Bartow’s farmers grew citrus and raised cattle that would be transported to markets in the north and southward to Havana. The discovery of phosphate in the 1880’s brought further wealth and development. Under sustained growth, Bartow began to expand services on Main Street beyond livery stables to schools, news offices, general stores, hotels and entertainment venues. The construction of the 1909 Courthouse in the classical revival style reflected the progress of the region from wilderness outpost to county seat ahead of the Great Depression.