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Fort Meade, Florida
City of Fort Meade
Christ Church built in 1889.
Christ Church built in 1889.
Official seal of Fort Meade, Florida
Location in Polk County and the state of Florida
Location in Polk County and the state of Florida
Country United States
State Florida
County Polk
Settled 1849
 • City 8.55 sq mi (22.15 km2)
 • Land 8.18 sq mi (21.20 km2)
 • Water 0.37 sq mi (0.95 km2)
138 ft (42 m)
 • City 5,100
 • Density 623.17/sq mi (240.62/km2)
 • Metro
Time zone UTC-5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s) 863
FIPS code 12-24100
GNIS feature ID 0282697

Fort Meade is a city in Polk County, Florida, United States. As of 2018, the population recorded by the U.S. Census Bureau is 6,203. It is part of the LakelandWinter Haven Metropolitan Statistical Area. The city was named for George Meade, at the time an Army lieutenant serving in Florida following the Second Seminole War. Fort Meade is home to Fort Meade Middle-Senior High School, several historic buildings, Streamsong resort and Patterson Park. The area is popular with kayakers and canoers.


Fort Meade Hist Dist Reid house01
The historic Reid House, built circa 1900
R.c. mcclellan house
W.O. Williams House/R.C. McClellan circa 1898

Fort Meade is the oldest city in Polk County, dating its origins to 1849 when it was an old military road from Tampa (Fort Brooke) to Fort Pierce during the Indian wars. The 1880s business district was located on old Wire Street (now Broadway), which was a casualty of four devastating fires. Today, there are over 150 buildings which are designated as landmarks. In the 1890s the Fort Meade Street Railway operated a horse-drawn service in the town.

The earliest known burial is John I. Hooker (1821–1862) located in the town's Evergreen Cemetery. Fort Meade's Christ Church (Episcopal) located at 526 North Oak, was built in 1889. It is a frame vernacular with Gothic Revival elements and was designed by architect J. H. Weddell. Located next to Christ Church is the famous Rev. Wm James Reid House. Located within the historic district, the house was used for the HBO motion picture The Judgement, featuring Blythe Danner, Keith Carradine and Jack Warden (1990).

Future Confederate General Stonewall Jackson was stationed at the fort in 1851. The town was burned by Union forces in 1864 and all of the original structures were destroyed, except the second fort which was dismantled in the 1890s. Fort Meade has over 300 homes on the National Register of Historic Places and a handful that date to the late 1800s.

Historic homes and buildings

  • Old Fort Meade School House Museum, c. 1885.
  • Reid House, c. 1900.
  • W.O. Williams/R.C. McClellan House, c. 1898.

Geography and climate

Fort Meade is located at 27°45′06″N 81°47′48″W / 27.751628°N 81.796767°W / 27.751628; -81.796767 (27.751628, -81.796767). Fort Meade is located 20 miles southwest of Legoland in Winter Haven. Fort Meade is located within the Central Florida Highlands area of the Atlantic coastal plain, with a terrain consisting of flatland interspersed with gently rolling hills.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 13.0 km2 (5.0 mi2), of which 12.9 km2 (5.0 mi2) is land and 0.1 km2 (0.1 mi2) (1.00%) is water.

Fort Meade is located in the humid subtropical zone, as designated by (Köppen climate classification: Cfa).


Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 105
1890 267 154.3%
1900 261 −2.2%
1910 1,165 346.4%
1920 2,029 74.2%
1930 1,981 −2.4%
1940 1,992 0.6%
1950 2,803 40.7%
1960 4,014 43.2%
1970 4,374 9.0%
1980 5,546 26.8%
1990 4,976 −10.3%
2000 5,691 14.4%
2010 5,626 −1.1%
2020 5,100 −9.3%
U.S. Decennial Census
Lightsey House
Lightsey House pictured in a 1907 postcard

As of the census of 2000, there were 5,691 people, 2,068 households, and 1,528 families residing in the city. The population density was 441.2/km2 (1,143.8/mi2). There were 2,625 housing units at an average density of 203.5/km2 (527.6/mi2). The racial makeup of the city was 67.60% White, 21.84% African American, 0.40% Native American, 0.09% Asian, 9.21% from other races, and 0.86% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 17.17% of the population.

There were 2,068 households, out of which 31.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 52.7% were married couples living together, 16.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 26.1% were non-families. 22.2% of all households were made up of individuals, and 11.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.72 and the average family size was 3.16.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 28.4% under the age of 18, 8.5% from 18 to 24, 24.9% from 25 to 44, 20.4% from 45 to 64, and 17.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females, there were 95.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.2 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $32,984, and the median income for a family was $38,125. Males had a median income of $30,617 versus $21,813 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,499. About 15.0% of families and 18.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 30.9% of those under age 18 and 8.2% of those age 65 or over.

In 2010 Fort Meade had a population of 5,626. The racial and ethnic composition of the population was 68.29% non-Hispanic white, 18.24% black or African American, 0.5% Native American, 0.3% Asian, 0.4% non-Hispanic from some other race, 1.9% reporting two or more races and 26.1% Hispanic or Latino. Most of the Hispanic population was Mexican with Mexicans making up 23.5% of the total population.

Designated a Blueway community

As of July 20, 2011, Fort Meade officially became only the second city in all of Florida to be designated as a "Blueway" community by the Florida Paddlers Association. Fort Meade Outdoor Recreation Area is a popular launching and pick-up site for kayak and canoe enthusiasts and is the site for the annual Peace River Paddle hosted by Florida Paddlers.


Major highways in Fort Meade:

  • US 17 – North–south highway on the middle of town. North of town it leads to Bartow. Southbound leads to Wauchula.
  • US 98 – Co-signed with US 17 on the north side of town, US 98 turns eastbound at East Broadway Avenue and leads to Frostproof and US 27.


Economic growth has been evident in Fort Meade. Mosaic Corporation developed a world class 10,000 acre golf and spa resort named Streamsong nearby. Legoland opened on October 15, 2011, and is having an economic impact on Fort Meade and the surrounding areas. Many of the historic homes are being purchased and restored despite a depressed Florida real estate market.

Notable people

  • Jason Baker, Florida State Contemporary Fiddle Champion, 2003
  • Melony Bell, politician
  • Onterio McCalebb, former Auburn University running back and current cornerback for the Cincinnati Bengals
  • Andrew McCutchen, Milwaukee Brewers outfielder, born and raised in Fort Meade
  • Dan White (actor), (March 25, 1908 – July 7, 1980), American actor, well known for appearing in Western films and TV shows

See also

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