A look at Lakeland: 1920 vs. 2020

Lakeland in the 1920s | Photo via The Polk Theatre

As we all collectively wrap up our remaining presents, we’re also wrapping up the “present” – present tense, that is. 2020 has been a wild ride and as we begin looking toward the future (2021, here we come), we felt it was only appropriate if we first took a deeper look at our past

To do this, we rounded up a few key events that occurred in Lakeland in the 1920s + compared them to the key events of 2020. It doesn’t have to be #TBT to check out this blast from the past. ⬇️

The Polk Theatre | Image via The Polk Theatre


1920: The Florida Land Boom was a time that sparked some of the city’s most significant developments including The Terrace Hotel, The Polk Theatre, and The New Florida Hotel (now Lake Mirror Tower Apartments), among others. 

2020: Today, we continue to watch our city grow + expand. From our hot warehouse scene and apartment complexes (like Swan Lake) to businesses (like Publix HQ’s expansion), and recreation facilities, (like Bonnet Springs Park), we’re experiencing a similar developmental boom.

Opening the new terminal at Miami for Pan American World Airways featuring Ruth Elder (in white) and Amelia Earheart | Image via Florida Photographic Collection


1920: Up in the sky, two locals (George Haldeman and Ruth Elder) almost made aviation history. And, down in the field, the Cleveland Indians called LAL their home for spring training. 

2020: Fast-forward to today + our community is still a center for innovation + sports. Don’t believe us? Check out Catapult’s newest entrepreneurial hub or the high-tech autonomous vehicle test track in Polk and be sure to ask us about the Detroit Tigers’ 80+ year relationship with the City.

Winter Haven Citrus Growers Association employees working in a grove | Image via Florida Photographic collection


1920: After the boom passed, Lakelanders endured the Great Depression (along with the rest of the U.S.), faced multiple severe hurricanes, dealt with many social injustice issues + squeezed through problems concerning the state’s citrus industry. 

2020: Between a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, job loss, the BLM movement + more, we could almost copy + paste the entire sentiment above and place it into what Lakelanders have experienced in 2020

No doubt, as we look forward to this new year, we’re reminded of those who came before us and our own similarities in resilience, overcoming difficulties, our innovation in dreaming big + the continuous drive to achieve an exceptional quality of life where we live. 💛

Take your favorite history buff on a blast to the past by forwarding them this digital time machine. 🚀