Bartow (/ˈbɑːrtoʊ/ BAR-toh) is the county seat of Polk County, Florida, United States. Founded in 1851 as Fort Blount, the city was renamed in honor of Francis S. Bartow, the first brigade commander of the Confederate Army to die in combat during the American Civil War. According to the U.S. Census Bureau 2000 Census, the city had a population of 15,340 and an estimated population of 16,959 in 2009. It is part of the Lakeland−Winter Haven Metropolitan Statistical Area, which had an estimated population of 584,383 in 2009. As of 2018, the mayor of Bartow is Leo Longworth.
Bartow is located slightly southwest of the geographical centers of both Polk County and peninsular Florida. The city is approximately 39 miles (63 km) east of Tampa and 51 miles (82 km) southwest of Orlando. The cities of Bartow, Lakeland, and Winter Haven form a roughly equilateral triangle pointed southward, with Bartow being the south point, Lakeland the west point, and Winter Haven the east point. The city is located near the headwaters of the Peace River at Lake Hancock. Bartow is located within the Central Florida Highlands area of the Atlantic coastal plain with a terrain consisting of flatland interspersed with gently rolling hills.
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