Polk County Courthouse Bartow, Florida

The exterior façade of Polk County History Center after restoration in Bartow, Florida. Source: Rowe Architects Incorporated

The exterior façade of Polk County History Center after restoration in Bartow, Florida. Source: Rowe Architects Incorporated

South Facade

South Facade

West Facade

West Facade

Courtroom with Restored Original Judge's Bench

Courtroom with Restored Original Judge's Bench

Courtroom Detail

Courtroom Detail

Courtroom Interior Doors

Courtroom Interior Doors

Light Fixture with Painted Stenciling

Light Fixture with Painted Stenciling

1926 1st Floor Plan

1926 1st Floor Plan

1926 2nd floor plan

1926 2nd floor plan

1926 3nd floor plan

1926 3nd floor plan

1996 1st Floor Plan

1996 1st Floor Plan

1996 2nd floor plan

1996 2nd floor plan

1996 3rd floor plan

1996 3rd floor plan

Client: Polk County

Location: 255 N. Broadway Avenue

Site: An existing courthouse of 57,000 square feet built originally in 1908 and added to in 1926.

Program Challenge: To restore the building’s original historic character and create spaces for the county’s Historical and Genealogical Library and history museum, at a cost of approximately $85 a square foot.

Solution: Rowe Architects choreographed a four-phase painstaking renovation of this historic courthouse that returned the building’s original luster while transforming it into a new museum and library space. This required carefully removing more than 60 years of renovations that obscured the building’s many historic features. Some modern updates, such as a new cooling system and elevator, were also added to make the building efficient and useable. The entire process was completed in six years to utilize only available funding, including several grants.

The first phase restored the 5 Baroque domes on the building’s exterior and replaced the roof. The second phase focused on restoration of the exterior masonry walls and installation of a new air conditioning plant.

Phases three and four renovated the east wing for the library and the rest of the building for the museum. Wood trim was restored or duplicated, the art tile floors and wainscots were restored in certain parts of the building (using tile mined from other locations when necessary), and paint and wood stains were carefully examined and matched for historical accuracy.

The entire renovation was carefully planned and executed to meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation of Historic Buildings. The project received the Meritorious Achievement Award from the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation in 1997 and an Honorable Mention Design Award from Tampa Bay chapter of AIA the same year. It also earned the courthouse a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.

Meritorious Achievement Award, 1997, Florida Trust for Historic Preservation
Honorable Mention, Design Awards,1997, AIA Tampa Bay