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The Polk Science Building Planetarium is the only planetarium designed by the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright and is located on the Florida Southern College campus.

The Polk Science Building Planetarium will receive a $250,000 restoration grant administered by the National Park Service (NPS) of the U.S Department of the Interior.

Construction of the planetarium was completed in 1958. It is the largest of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed buildings on campus and the last to be completed within the architect’s lifetime. Florida Southern is the world’s largest single-site collection of the architect’s work and his only executed design for a college campus.

Funding for the planetarium project is supported through a grant from the Save America’s Treasures program. The program will fund 42 projects to preserve nationally historic properties and collections in 26 states with a total of $12.8 million in matching grants. The program requires applicants to match grant money, dollar for dollar, from other funding sources — bringing FSC a total of $500,000 in funding for the planetarium’s interior restoration.

Florida Southern’s 1959 Interlachen yearbook published this photograph showing the planetarium dome on the roof of the recently constructed Polk Science Building.

“Combined with a significant gift from Lakeland’s own historic preservationist and philanthropist Gregory Fancelli, the future is bright for this magnificent one-of-its-kind planetarium. Scholars from around the world are eager to come and study this gem of world-class architecture at Florida Southern College.” – FSC President Anne Kerr

The planned two-year restoration project calls for repair, replacement, and physical upgrades to the planetarium facility’s infrastructure and interior features, addressing damage caused by aging as well as water infiltration accelerated by several hurricanes. Together with a separately funded restoration of the building’s exterior, the project’s aim is to allow the resumption of educational programs for the benefit of FSC students and the Lakeland-area community.

Restoration work will include repairing damage to the facility’s unique “textile-block” walls, a construction system that weaves together concrete blocks reinforced by steel bars. Damage to ceilings, windows, floors, doors, and other hardware will also be addressed, in addition to the off-site refurbishment of the planetarium’s original, Wright-designed wooden seating and upholstery.

The Florida Southern College Historic District was designated a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service of the U.S. Department of the Interior in 2012.

 

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