The town has only a few residential homes of architectural interest and many of these have fallen into disrepair as they are occupied by unemployed, drug using, residents of the central core in the city.
The Landmark Baptist College also purchased the Old Presbyterian Church building. I believe the Presbyterian Church has moved into newer facilities elsewhere in town. The old church typifies the style of architecture of southern USA churches.
The Hotel was named after the Haines city father who built it, but today the once delux interior is party obsured by the business of the modestly endowed Bible college. Thanks to my hosts however, I was able to take these images. Four of these are from the first floor lobby area, while the last is of the windows in the now empty top floor penthouse suite.
The Polk Hotel is now occupied by the Landmark Bible College. The building is the tallest in the central Haines City area and is off both architecture and historic interest. The 9 story Italian Rennaisance building attracted my eye early on in my walk, so the opportunity to go in and up to the top was worth extra effort. In addition to its extrordinary height within the town landscape, it is located at the top of the sand ridge. An employee of the Bible College was happy to oblige me for a tour, and I learned that the building was constructed only three years before the fall of the stock market in 1929. Since the industry of the town collapsed with the market, the hotel never really lived up to the expectations of the builders, and so it changed ownership several times. In 1994 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The approximately 100 student Landmark Bible College owns several other buildings in town and has its own historical prescence.
Lake Eva and Lake Tracy are about the same size, but Lake Eva seemed much larger. I couldn't walk around it in the time that I had. Lake Eva has a nice sand beach and park on the north end. Elsewhere the lake is mostly bordered by large residential properties, and private docks. The east side appeared very nicely bordered by a sandbar, marsh grasses, and small forest, from where folks came to fish. The park on the north side has children's play equipment and basketball courts.
Lake Tracy is one of many lakes in the Sand Ridge region, and one of two sizeable large ones, where boating is possible, close to the old center of Haines City. I pretty much walked all sides of this lake, which is between Hwy 17 and the old downtown. Residential homes surround most of the lake, with a small boat landing and the citris grower wharehouse and railyard bordering on the south side. The lake is not deep and has wetland marsh grasses growing through sandbars in places. Many homes had private dock. I saw a fan boat, but mostly I saw small aluminum boats with catfish seeking fisherman. Alligators may be in this lake, but I didn't see any.
Around the central square where the farmer's market is held are a number of two story commercial buildings of mostly ordinary architecture that date back to before the 1920's when Haines City was a booming agricultural industry town and rail depot. In the square itself is a donated brick plaza that includes a donation from President Bill Clinton. There's also a pretty wooden band stand.
Haines City is the Heart of Florida for being within the Sand Ridge area where the original Florida oranges were grown. In recent decades, serious hard frosts killed most orchard trees further north, while to the south larger corporate farms were created from the low level Florida swamp land. The south is where the Florida juicing orange is grown, while many of the eating navel oranges are imported from California. But, right in the center of the old business district is a farmer's market where one can sample the products of local farms long since past their commerical prime. Some are merely vendors selling what others produce elsewhere in the nations, but I soon came across at least one local citrus farmer who managed an orchard of only 13 arcres. He showed me his variety of orange rind fruit, some oranges, other mandarins of various types. It was he who taught me about the sand ridge and the well drained soil of the Haines City orchards. He pealed a fruit and offered it to me. I had noticed that the rind was a bit blotchy, and he admitted that his fruit wouldn't sell well in the brand name grocery stores. "Plus", he said, "they also have to many seeds, but they peal really easily, and they taste great!". He was right about the last part. I hadn't tasted such a wonderful combination of tangy citrus flavors in all my life. I systematically sampled all that he had to offer, and then bought a small bagfull of fruit. Haines City may not be the center of the corporate citrus crop, but in my mind they are the center of citrus flavor. The Main Street Farmers Market is open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m every Wednesday in Rail Road Park, which is located in Historic Downtown Haines City.
The penthouse suite of the Polk Hotel has sweeping views of Haines City. Unfortunately, I had to shoot these images through the glass windows, so the colors are a bit brownish.
Lake Elsie is a small pond off business hwy 17 in central Haines City. There's an interesting sign that says "Don't feed the alligators", but the pond seemed too small for any to live there.