Central Vacuum Cleaner Building, 1947-2016

The Central Vacuum Cleaner Building passed into history today, succumbing to a demolition crew. It was 69.

The structure at 420 Lake Mirror Drive was born in 1947 as Modern Cleaners. It was built in a Streamline Moderne style by Howard Hutchens; originally it included a drive-in area similar to the Southside Clearers structure on Florida Avenue that Hutchins built nine years later.

This article was updated Jan. 20 with comments from Historic Lakeland’s president

In a childhood trauma, a storm blew out the front of the building in April 1959 when it was but a lad of 12. It bulked up with additions in 1972 at a lusty age 25.

Kimberly Wyant, whose KRaP Art gallery, was one of the last tenants, was wistful but future-facing as she watched the demolition. “We’re moving on to bigger and better things,” she said, a reference to work she and volunteers are doing to move KRaP Art to a new, larger home at 938 E. Main St.

Central Vacuum has moved to 704 N. Ingraham Ave.

The building was purchased earlier this month by the Lakeland Economic Development Council, which also bought the Lakeland Cash Feed building next door.

Lakeland Cash Feed will be converted into the $13 million Catapult 2 small business incubator, and the Central Vacuum property will become its parking lot.

While the cash feed building lies within the Munn Park historic district, the vacuum cleaner building next door does not, so there was no requirement that historic value be reviewed before a demolition permit was issued.

Historic Lakeland Inc., a non-profit advocacy organization, pushed for the preservation of the building in meetings with downtown stakeholders, President Steve Shelnut said, adding that options were limited since the property was outside the historic district.

“Lake Mirror is the crown jewel of our downtown, so even if the vacuum shop was not in the mix, it would still be a worthy goal for us to advocate for alternatives to things like parking lots and garages overlooking the promenade or entering lines of sight from the parks,” he said in an email.

The demolition permit was approved Friday, and demolition by Cross Environmental Services of Crystal River took place the next business day, a holiday when city offices were closed.

“It was disappointing to find out after the fact” about the demolition, Shelnut said.

LEDC President Steve Scruggs said plans for Catapult 2.0 are proceeding smoothly and he and his staff will meet this week with the team of local architects designing the Catapult interior.

A mural-covered retaining wall behind the now-demolished Central Vacuum building still stands. No word yet on whether it will come down.

Foreground: The Lakeland Vacuum Cleaner building during renovations. Behind it: Lakeland Cash Feed, which will become Catapult 2.0.
Foreground: The Central Vacuum Cleaner Building during todays demolition. Behind it: Lakeland Cash Feed, which will become Catapult 2.0.

Thanks to Emily Foster of the city of Lakeland planning staff for background about the building.