Florida became a state in 1845, and Polk County was established in 1861. Lakeland was first settled in the 1870s and began to develop as the rail lines reached the area in 1884. Lakeland was incorporated January 1, 1885. The town was founded by Abraham Munn, from Kentucky, who purchased 80 acres of land in what is now downtown Lakeland in 1882 and platted the land for the town in 1884. Lakeland was named for the many lakes near the town site. Thirty-eight lakes are named, the largest of these is Lake Parker, which is 2,550 acres in size. Other large lakes are Lake Hollingsworth, Lake Morton, Lake Mirror, and Lake Gibson.
Citrus growing dates back to the early settlers who planted trees in the area in the 1850s. After a series of freezes in counties north of Polk County, the area became the focal point for citrus growing in Florida. Although citrus is no longer the largest industry in the area, it still plays a large part in the economy of Lakeland and Polk County. History is alive in Lakeland’s downtown Historic and Antiques district. There are many antiques dealers, specialty shops, art galleries, museums, restaurants and pubs, right in the heart of downtown Lakeland.