Historic Bartow cigar factory still sits empty as the city waits for developer

BARTOW, Fla. - One of the last remaining cigar factories in Polk County continues to sit vacant, waiting for someone to see its potential.

The old Bartow Cigar Factory is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was built in the 1920s, known then as the Thompson Cigar Factory.

In its prime, the men and women who worked there rolled as many as 200,000 cigars a day.

"This does not need to be torn down into a parking lot," said Trish Pfeiffer, who has been pushing to save the factory for the last three years. "This is worth saving."

Pfeiffer and other supporters convinced the City of Bartow to purchase the property in 2012.

Despite a fresh coat of paint and minor repairs, developers have ignored the property.

Pfeiffer thinks the historic building can be turned into a brewery, winery, market or museum.

"There's so much that could be done with it, and we're just hoping that a developer will see the potential," she said.

In a couple of weeks, a mitigation crew is coming in to clear up asbestos and other health hazards to make it more appealing.

In the meantime, Pfeiffer is going to take matters into her own hands.

"I'll be trying to send this information to some developers that I know. Instead of waiting for them to come to us, I'm going to hit as many as I can," she said.

She is helping the city live up to it's motto: "Our history comes to life."

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