Lawrence Bernard Brown
(Sept. 12, 1856 - June 16, 1941)
Lawrence B. Brown was born during the last decade of slavery in an area known as Wacahoota, near Gainsville, Florida (Alachua County).
His father, Peter Brown, was a plantation minister and his mother was Catherine. Lawrence was sixth of eleven children.
Following the end of slavery in 1865, the Brown family migrated to Spring Garden (currently known as Glenwood) in Volusia County.
In 1881, Lawrence married Elizabeth (Betty) Washington and aquired a considerable amount of property on which he constructed homes that he sold or rented to others. A street that bordered his property in Spring Garden was named Lawrence Street in his honor.
Following the death of his father Peter in 1885, Lawrence decided to move to the town of Bartow, Florida because that area was experiencing an economic boom due to the recent discovery of phosphate. Adhering to his father's final request, Lawrence brought his mother Catherine to live with him. His wife Elizabeth apparently remained behind.
Continuing the pattern of his earlier successes, Lawrence aquired more property in Bartow and built a large number of dwellings which he sold or rented.
In 1897 he married a woman in Bartow by the name of Laura Lee; but this union lasted only a few months.
Through determination, thrift, and skill, Brown became a prosperous businessman and a leading citizen in the East Bartow community. He became a faithful member of the newly organized Mt. Gilboa Missionary Baptist Church where he served for many years as the church clerk.
In 1909 Lawrence Brown married a beautiful widow named Anna Belle (Granger) Burnette. Together they reared eleven children and enjoyed a happy union until her death in 1938. It is believed that her flair for elegance and good taste inspired some of the elaborate detailing found throughout the dwelling.
Lawrence was a soft-spoken eloquent man who was credited with several occupations including Bible salesman, book agent, cabinetmaker, furniture repair, mirror silvering, and umbrella maker. Of course, he also built beautiful homes!
As a devout Christian who was generous with his wealth, Brown was a leader by example. At the time of his death in 1941, he left a considerable amount of cash and real-estate to his children.
The Victorian style, two-story mansion located at 470 L. B. Brown Avenue (formerly Second Avenue) in Bartow stands as a living testimony to one person's triumph over adversity. The story of L.B. Brown should serve as an inspiration to everyone. Although born with all of the debilitating influences of slavery, he refused to be limited by those circumstances. An appropriate inscription on his headstone reads; "From slavery to community builder."
In 1998, the league of cities and the Florida Department of State bestowed the honor of "Great Floridian 2000" upon L.B. Brown.
The L.B. Brown image is a trademark of The Neighborhood Improvement Corporation of Bartow, Florida
790 Waldon Avenue, Bartow, Florida 33830.