By Robert Connros
Managing Editor 

History Museum Launches Appeal to Complete Collections and Research Center

Hardman Building Needs Insulation, Draywall to control Humidity, Protect Collections


Last updated 6/4/2022 at 9:14pm

The Lake Wales History Museum offers a fascinating peek into the past, with artifacts ranging from a pre-Columbian First Nations canoe to the growth of the modern city.

Fearing damage due to Florida's summertime temperatures and humidity, the Lake Wales History Museum is reaching out to supporters and potential donors to raise funds to improve the 1916 railroad depot which houses many thousands of important documents and historical artifacts at the not-for-profit facility.

According to Anderson Hanna, the museum's interim director, the historic Seaboard Airline railroad depot is "an optimal location" to house what he describes as "an unparalleled collection of Lake Wales and Polk County materials" related to the origins and history of the area. However, he points out that the building must be upgraded in order to "meet current and best standards for the preservation of the artifacts currently housed" in the building.

The Mimi Hardman Collections and Research Center was named after the late museum founder, who sought the donation of the former Atlantic Coast Line railroad depot for the purpose. That distinctive historic pink building was established as the museum in the United Stated bicentennial year of 1976. Other buildings now part of the museum complex were moved to the site, including the 1916 SAL depot and the Crystal Lodge, which formerly housed the Lake Wales Woman's Club and the town's first library.

Robert Connors

The fully restored 1923 railroad caboose offers a peek into the lifestyle and working conditions of the early railroad men who opened the Ridge area before the development of paved roads. The restoration work was a gift from the former Lake Wales Museum Association, now Lake Wales Heritage.

The museum has benefitted from other community support, including the extensive restoration of the 1923 caboose. That work was performed by the Lake Wales Museum Association, now Lake Wales Heritage, at a material cost of more than $10,000 using volunteer labor.

The exterior and foundations of the Hardman building also received extensive repairs in recent years, which brought it back into useful service after years of slow decline. The latest drive is hoped to provide the funds to complete the full restoration.

"We need the community's help to make this project a reality," Hanna said.

Donations in support of the work may be mailed to the Lake Wales History Museum, 325 South Scenic Highway, Lake Wales, 33853, or online at

"Any amount will help, and we appreciate your support," Hanna added.


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