Native American Indians inhabited Florida until the arrival of Spanish Explorers in the 16th century. Northern settlers tried to establish homesteads during the Civil War; some succeeded in farming and cattle. The three Seminole Wars during the 1800s also caused major conflicts between the Indians and white settlers. Construction of military forts, needing the agricultural and beef products from the area to support the troops, brought a ready market, some stability and peace.
Abraham Munn, from Louisville, Kentucky, bought 80 acres of what is now downtown Lakeland in 1882. Named for its many lakes, the town was incorporated in 1885. A train depot in a rival town across Lake Parker mysteriously burned; it was rebuilt in Lakeland. As many as 25 trains would stop in Lakeland each day, bringing economic development and tourism. Munn built the Tremont Hotel in 1885, considered the best hotel in South Florida at the time.
In 1888, H.S. Galloway, a farmer, raised a very profitable crop of strawberries, bringing the industry to the area. Lakeland became the largest supplier of the fruit in the state. Another landmark industry was the erection of a light plant by the Lakeland Light and Power Company in 1891. Lakeland became the third city in Florida to have electric lights. During the 1920s land boom, many Renaissance style buildings were constructed. Some have survived to this day and can be seen in the Munn Historic District. The community grew until the Depression of 1929 when land values plummeted. With the construction of the Lakeland Municipal Airport and the arrival of the Detroit Tigers baseball club in 1934 for spring training helped the city recover. In the 1938, famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed Florida Southern College with 12 buildings. With its central location, Lakeland continues to expand and develop.