About This Episode
Bok Tower Gardens is the quintessential “hidden gem” of Central Florida. It’s a tropical botanic garden and a National Historic Landmark that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Bok Tower Gardens were formally dedicated by President Calvin Coolidge on February 1, 1929.
Right in the middle of the state you’ll find this beautiful tropical oasis with one of the greatest carillons in America: The Singing Tower! Although the tower’s interior is not open to the public, it contains the Anton Brees Carillon Library, said to be the largest carillon library in the world. It also is home to the Chao Research Center Archives, which keeps various institutional records related to Bok Tower Gardens. Recitals are given daily from the 60-bell carillon set.
Acquired by Bok Tower Gardens in 1970, The Pinewood Estate (originally called “El Retiro”), is a twenty-room Mediterranean Revival mansion. Annually, the mansion is decorated for Christmas with holiday tours being a highlight of the holiday season for locals.
Location: Bok Tower Gardens, 1151 Tower Boulevard, Lake Wales, Florida 33853
Nestled among citrus groves, just north of the city of Lake Wales and about 75 minutes south or Orlando, lies one of Central Florida’s greatest treasures – the majestic Bok Tower Gardens – with 250 acres of tropical and botanic gardens, the Pinewood Estate mansion, Pine Ridge trail and the pièce de résistance: the 205-foot tall Singing Tower with its carillon bells. An unforgettable visit you won’t want to miss.
Bok Tower Gardens, a National Historic Landmark that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places began in 1921. Created by Edward W. Bok a Dutch immigrant, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and successful editor of the popular women’s magazine Ladies Home Journal spent years developing the gardens which was dedicated by President Calvin Coolidge on February 1, 1929.
Bok chose landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. to transform what then was an arid sand-hill into “a spot of beauty second to none”. Olmsted designed the meandering gardens of Bok Tower to feature acres of ferns, palms, oaks, pines, and wetland plants.
The gardens delight with hidden spaces to rest and reflect, but as magnificent as the gardens are, they surround one of the world’s finest man-made monuments. The Singing Tower Carillon of Bok Tower.
The Singing Tower is the centerpiece of the gardens. The Gothic Revival and Art Deco tower built from pink and grey marble and coquina stone was designed by architect Milton B. Medary. Construction on the tower began in 1927 and was completed for the dedication of the gardens in 1929. The tower is 51 feet square at its base and soars to 205-feet high. Inside there are 60 carillon bells made of bronze which range in weight from sixteen pounds to twenty-four thousand pounds. The massive brass door to the tower weighs one thousand pounds with relief panels that depict the story of creation from the book of Genesis. The colorful ceramic tiles of the tower depict Florida’s floral and fauna. The multi-level winding stairway leads to a 1921 Otis elevator which reaches the top of the tower. Melodious recitals are given throughout the day, and a special Christmas concert is held annually with the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra during their Sunset and Symphony Holiday Concert.
Speaking of holidays, you must schedule your visit to Bok Tower Gardens when the Pinewood Estate Mansion is decked inside and out in marvelous Christmas splendor.
Pinewood Estate is a twenty-room Mediterranean Revival mansion built between 1930-1932 by C. Austin Buck who was a vice-president of Bethlehem Steel Company and used the home as a winter retreat. The home’s original name was “El Retiro”, and it has been restored to its 1930s appearance. The home was acquired by Bok Tower and self-guided tours of the mansion are given daily.