Bartow Civic CenterPhoto by Dennis Kunka, 2019. Used with permission.
The Bartow Civic Recreation Center and pool were built ca. 1933-1935. Records suggest the project was started by workers in the Civil Works Administration (CWA) and completed by workers in the Work Division of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA).
Around 1969-1973, the recreation center became the Oaks School. In 2005, the Oaks School closed, and the current use of the building is unknown. The pool no longer exists. (A new civic center was built in 1967, on Floral Avenue.)
The construction of the building was described in great detail by Mary E. Adkins, in the January 27, 1934 edition of the Polk County Record newspaper (see source note 1 below). Adkins wrote: “The building which is of semi-Italian and Spanish style of architecture is being built of native stone… This stone which is exceedingly artistic and picturesque… is also to be used for the slab floors throughout the building.” Adkins also reported hurricane-proof concrete beams and cornices; cypress paneling; and a Spanish tile roof (which today seems to have been replaced by a different style of roofing).
With respect to the engraved building stone that reads, “CWA 1934,” and is shaped like the United States, Adkins noted that it contained “green and brown pebbles mixed in with the iron rock glomeration so the color scheme is very effective and very unusual” (the stone was obviously painted over white at some point). She also mentioned a time capsule: “A copper container is being inserted in the center of the stone where records and other instruments will be sealed.”
Two days after Adkins’ article, the Polk County Record said of the engraved stone: “This stone of the same native, iron glomeration rock of which the entire building is constructed, is flecked with green pebbles, and is especially beautiful. It was cut in the general outline form of the United States, its shape symbolizing the interdependency of the part on the whole, and the whole on the part. The only letters appearing on the stone are CWA which explain the source through which the building was made possible, and the date, 1934” (see source note 2 below).
(1) Mary E. Adkins, “Cornerstone Bartow’s New Civic Recreation Center Set For Sunday,” Polk County Record (Bartow, Florida), January 27, 1934.
(2) “Cornerstone of New Recreational Center Laid With Ceremony,” Polk County Record (Bartow, Foirida), January 29, 1934.
(3) Andrew Dunn, “Low Enrollment Closes Oak School in Bartow,” The Ledger (Lakeland, Florida), July 20, 2005.
(4) “Kelly Top Seed in Net Tourney,” The Tampa Tribune, September 1, 1967.
(5) William Lloyd Harris, Bartow, Arcadia Publishing, 2013, p. 92.
(6) Florida Memory photograph collection, State Library & Archives of Florida (visited March 1, 2019).
(7) Email correspondence with Dennis Kunka (on tour of the area, from Illinois), Dorinda Garrard (Polk County Historical and Genealogical Library), and Lois Sherrouse-Murphy (Polk County History Center), February 16-24, 2019.
Project originally submitted by Brent McKee on March 11, 2019.
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