How Lakeland has changed: Then and now in photos

We dug through Florida’s archived photos and postcards to see how much Lakeland has changed since it was first founded in 1885 — you might be surprised.

A side-by-side image showing an old lakeshore view of Lake Morton next to a current one.

Hold your horses, this was Lake Morton?

Postcard via Florida Memory, photo by LALtoday

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Much has changed in Lakeland’s 138-year history. We’ve scoured through the State Library and Archives of Florida to find postcards and photos of the Lakeland of old. Let’s take a look into the past to see how far we’ve come.

Lake Morton

At one point, it might have been more likely to see a horse around Lake Morton than a swan. Lakeland’s royal swans didn’t arrive until 1957, and the earliest records of swans on the lake date back to only 1923.

Joker Marchant Stadium

A side-by-side image showing a postcard of Henley Field next to a photo of Joker Marchant Stadium.

Henley Field is now used by Florida Southern College’s baseball team.

Postcard via Florida Memory, photo by @lkdflyingtigers

Our relationship with the Detroit Tigers is the longest-standing in MLB history. The team first started spring training in Lakeland in 1934, playing at Henley Field, pictured above. Joker Marchant Stadium opened in 1966, holding just 4,900 fans — it now holds 8,500.

Downtown Lakeland

Side by side comparison of a vintage corner drug store postcard and a current restaurant.

Does this corner look familiar?

Postcard via Florida Memory, photo by LALtoday

Downtown shoppers could once grab necessities from a five-and-dime store in the Kress Building and a corner drug store. Now, this building on Kentucky Avenue is home to Harry’s Seafood Bar & Grille. Across Munn Park, we can now get basics from bodega Market.

Hotel Thelma

Side-by-side comparison of the Hotel Thelma and the street corner it used to stand on.

Hotel Thelma’s successor, the Terrace Hotel, stands in the distance.

Left photo via Florida Memory, right photo by LALtoday

Just down the street once stood Hotel Thelma, the first modern hotel in Lakeland built in 1913. It played host to famous visitors like Teddy Roosevelt and Thomas Edison, but shuttered in 1962. Since then, the site has been rebuilt to hold eateries like Frescos Southern Kitchen & Bar and Taco Bus.

Magnolia Building

A side-by-side comparison of the Lakeland Tourist Center and the Magnolia Building.

You can learn to ballroom dance here on Thursday nights.

Postcard via Florida Memory, photo by LALtoday

This city-owned building on Lake Mirror is now an event center — you may have attended a wedding or community gathering there — but did you know it used to be the Lakeland Community Tourist Center? It was built in 1938 and held the Lakeland Tourist Club until 1998. You can take a tour of the Frances Langford Promenade to learn more about historic Lakeland stories like this.

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