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Bartow's historic L.B. Brown House highlights legacy of successful businessman

LB Brown House
Posted at 4:52 AM, Feb 11, 2022

BARTOW, Fla. — L.B. Brown was a prominent black figure in Bartow. Born into slavery, he became a successful community leader and businessman in Polk County.

Today, you can take a tour of the house that he built by hand.

"Brown's story is not just an anecdote. It's well documented, just about everything we say about Mr. Brown, we can prove through documentation," Clifton Lewis, Curator of the L.B. Brown House Museum said. "So he was a very significant community builder, even a force in the community."

The home is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was restored several years ago after becoming abandoned.

"He was, as I say, born into slavery with nothing, not formally educated. And yet he became one of Polk County's leading entrepreneurs. By the time of his death in 1941, it's estimated that he was worth well over half a million dollars. So he was clearly an example of someone who overcame adversity, and did quite well for himself and his family and his community," explained Lewis.

As Lewis said, preserving Brown's history, memory and contributions to the community are important.

Lewis said, "He made most of his gains here in Bartow, and significant impact on Volusia County, and all of Polk County and so forth. It's a part of our country's history that had been suppressed and been buried. And now, of course, is coming to light."

To visit, you can request a tour of the house and get a glimpse of how Mr. Brown, his wife, and seven children lived.

"So the house was built in 1892. Surprisingly, those seven children very otherwise healthy children, produced only one grandchild. And so in time, back in 1989, when his daughter died, and there were no more heirs, it became abandoned. And it was actually on a block to be demolished because no one took care of it," explained Lewis.

But numerous entities stepped up to make sure Brown's home and legacy remained intact.

Click here to request a visit and tour of the Brown home.

This weekend is also the L.B. Brown Heritage Festival. It's from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. at the museum.

Click here to learn about the festival.