The Lake Wales History Museum needs your help to raise funds to create the new Mimi Hardman Collections and Research Center. The museum is endeavoring to restore and rehabilitate the historic 1916 Seaboard Airline Freight Station, and repurpose the interior of the building as the new permanent Mimi Hardman Collections & Research Center in 2020.
The City of Lake Wales has already committed $37,500 to the project, and the museum has already raised another $14,500. This is a testament of the importance and investment the City of Lake Wales is making in the future of the Lake Wales History Museum and the historic preservation of Lake Wales.
But we need the community’s help to make this project a reality. Will you please make a donation today? Any amount will help, and we appreciate your support.
Mimi Hardman has dedicated her life to the preservation of Lake Wales history and heritage. As the founder of the history museum and champion for historic preservation throughout Florida, Mimi is the reason we now have an unparalleled collection of Lake Wales and Polk County printed materials, illustrated items, manuscripts, textiles, material culture artifacts, historic buildings, train cars, and five historic districts. Items in the collection date back to 1852, when the original government survey of Lake Wales was completed.
Since 1976, the Lake Wales History Museum has been devoted to the preservation of the cultural heritage of the City of Lake Wales. The museum was founded on the belief that it should exist to conserve and use materials for the study of local history. The contributions to the museum over the last 44 years hold the key to the history of the people and places of Lake Wales, Florida. Today, the museum is the steward of those collections, and has a responsibility to properly care for them. In the last four years, the collection has undergone a complete reorganization to properly store and inventory all items in the collection.
As of April of 2019, 13,000 items have been inventoried and properly stored in archival safe containers and climate-controlled spaces. The majority of remaining items to be cataloged have been audited. It is estimated an additional 7,000—8,000 items are waiting final inventory. A number of items also still need to be recovered from other buildings, but the museum needs more space for our collections and to restore this historic building for future generations to enjoy. This space would also provide a place for visitors and residents to search Lake Wales history, see our yearbooks, search through photos and other research, for those looking to find out about the people and places from the past.
The 1916 Seaboard Airline Freight Station is an optimal location for this repurposed use, as it would provide a permanent location for the museum’s collections, and allow for the historic preservation of the building. The historic building was moved to the historic corridor in 1994, and under the leadership of Mimi Hardman a railroad museum was opened and operated until 2012, when the model railroad club dissolved. Today, the building has is already equipped for all we need to turn this into a secure place for all of our Lake Wales history.
To create the MIMI HARDMAN COLLECTIONS & RESEARCH CENTER, rehabilitation of the 1916 Seaboard Airline Freight Depot is essential. A full restoration of the exterior of the building will take place, including siding repair, a new deck, HVAC, landscaping, and signage. Inside, the building would be upgraded and remodeled to house our collections and provide a workspace for staff and the public to visit. A new exterior interpretive display will tell the story of the building, its architecture, former use and significance in the community. And, finally, new signage will name the building the MIMI HARDMAN COLLECTIONS & RESEARCH CENTER, with a new dedication plaque for Mimi.