Learning Resources

Lake Wales History Museum | Lake Wales, Florida

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Lake Wales

Lake Wales History Museum Exhibits

Field Trips

Lake Wales History Museum | Lake Wales, Florida | Since 1967


The museum offers tours for children and student groups of all sizes and ages.  We welcome visitors with disabilities, including families with children and adults on the autism spectrum. Please download the Social Story about what to expect when visiting the Museum.

Lake Wales History Museum | Lake Wales, Florida | Events | Field Trips

To Schedule A Field Trip

please have the following information available:


Date and time options


Number of students and chaperones. We ask one chaperone for every 10 students.

Please call or email us at:



Field trips are available Tuesday - Saturday for groups of 10 or more.


Two weeks advanced notice is recommended.


We ask one chaperone for every 10 students.


The last entry to the museum is 4:30 PM.


Arrive 10–15 minutes early to allow time for check-in and restroom breaks.


Field trips to the Lake Wales Museum are free to the public.


Bus parking is available in the south parking area only.


Chaperones are responsible at all times for ensuring your group explores the museum in a safe and respectful manner.


Food, drinks, candy and gum are not permitted inside the galleries.


Photography is welcome. Tripods and commercial photography is not permitted.


The picnic area is available on a first-come, first served basis and accommodates about 25 people.

Museum Suitcase

The Lake Wales Museum Suitcase is a mobile exhibit case that comes to you and your students.

Lake Wales History Museum | Lake Wales, Florida | Events | Museum Suitcase

Suitcase Includes:


A Teacher's Guide


A Student's Guide


Built in activities and lessons


Objects, documents, and images from the Lake Wales Museum educatoin collection


Reproduction peices that are helpful for understanding the history of Lake Wales


Aligns with FDOE standards for fourth grade curriculum

Lake Wales History Museum | Lake Wales, Florida | Florida's Natural Growers Foundation
Created with a generous grant from Florida Natural Grower’s Foundation, Inc.
Lake Wales History Museum | Lake Wales, Florida

Lake Wales History


Survey made of region around present-day Lake Wales by W.A. Williams and J. Jackson, deputy surveyors of the State of Florida; area considered to be uninhabitable by early settlers.


Lake Wailes (lake) named after Sidney I. Wailes, agent for the Florida Land and Improvement Co., who had helped surveyor Colonel J.W. Childs obtain a contract to do second survey of the region.


Robert J. Ruth of Baltimore, Maryland, obtained 1,400 acres of land around Iron Mountain.


G.V. Tillman scouted region and saw potential for turpentine, citrus, and other industries; developed idea to colonize area around Lake Wailes.


B.F. Bullard, C.L. Johnson, A. Sessoms, G.F. Deen, and J.M. Bell purchased land around Lake Wailes to develop Naval Stores business; Sessoms Investment Co. formed.


Atlantic Coast Line Railroad broke ground at Haines City for branch line south to Frostproof.


C.L. Johnson Co. formed by G.V. Tillman, B.F. Bullard, C.L. Johnson, and B.K. Bullard to plan turpentine still at northeast corner of Lake Wailes (near present-day Kiwanis Park).


C.L. Johnson Co. formed by G.V. Tillman, B.F. Bullard, C.L. Johnson, and B.K. Bullard to plan turpentine still at northeast corner of Lake Wailes (near present-day Kiwanis Park).
Atlantic Coast Line Railroad tracks reached Lake Wailes ending isolation of the area; depot built near present-day Park Avenue.
Turpentine Still constructed with commissary, blacksmith shop, church, and living quarters for workers.
Lake Wales Land Co formed by E.C. Stuart and officers of C.L. Johnson Co.
A.C. Nydegger hired by Lake Wales Land Co. to survey and plat town site.
Streets cleared and construction of Hotel Wales began.


General Store opened by T.J. Parker; post office boxes installed
Bartow-Lake Wales mail service inaugurated
Construction started on boardinghouse for employees of Lake Wales Land Co.
Construction started on Associated Reformed Presbyterian Church
Water works constructed
Permanent settlement in town began as families started arriving
Sawmill constructed north of town


Newspaper service instituted with publication of Lake Wales News by Polk County record Office
Home building commenced with construction of Wetmore houses on Twin Lake
Ice plant completed
Spelling of town’s name on depot sign changed by ACL Railroad from Lake Wailes to Lake Wales, reflecting popular usage
Banking added to services offered in T.J. Parker’s General Store
First services held in town’s first church
Hotel Wales opened for businessown


Electric light plant completed
School opened with 14 pupils
Organized grove planting began
Cemetery established
Organization of community social and civic groups beganMedical services provided with arrival of Dr. C.F. Griffin
Population reached 250
Volunteer Fire Department organized following first real calamity


Western Union installed telegraph operations
Seaboard Air Line tracks extended to Lake Wales from Bartow
Telephone line connected Lake Wales with Haines City
Lake Wales Board of Trade organized and joined Ridge Board of Trade


Local publication of newspaper began with first issue of The Highlander
Military company organized for rifle practice and drill; later became Home Guard
Streets in business district given hard surface
Justice of the Peace appointed in Lake Wales district
School year opened with 98 pupils; $25,000 bond issue approved for new building


Board of Trade organized Farm Loan Association to develop surrounding groves
Asphalt road completed between Lake Wales and Haines City
Charter of Incorporation granted to Town of Lake Wales by Florida Legislature
Town Council elected: M.R. Anderson, Mayor; G.E. Wetmore, B.K. Bullard, L.L. Barnes, G. Swanke, and J.F. Townsend, Councilmen; M.M. Ebert, Clerk

The Railroad

Before the arrival of the railroad, Lake Wales could only be reached by sand trails. The extension of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad from Haines City to Lake Wales in 1911 ended the community’s isolation and encouraged early settlement. The original Atlantic Coast Line depot, a crude unpainted shack and platform, was the first building constructed in Lake Wales. It was replaced in 1913 with a large frame structure that stood on Scenic Highway near Park Avenue. The new depot was capable of accommodating both freight and passengers, and, as people and supplies began to flow in, it served as the starting point from which the present town evolved.

In April 1915, the first train over the Lake Wales section of the east-west Seaboard Air Line tracks came through from Bartow, and early residents celebrated their status as a 2-railroad town. In 1916, a small depot was constructed just east of the intersection of Kissimmee Avenue and Scenic Highway to accommodate rail traffic on this line.

In 1928, a new passenger depot was constructed several blocks south of the original depot to relieve congestion in the downtown area. A freight room and loading platform were added in 1938.

Passenger service to Lake Wales ceased in 1954. In 1966, Seaboard Air Line and Atlantic Coast Line merged to form the Seaboard Coast Line Railway. In 1974, freight service shifted to the West Lake Wales station, and trains no longer stopped in Lake Wales.