Bok Tower Gardens
If you are a Dutch Immigrant, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, humanitarian, advocate for world peace and editor of the wildly popular Ladies Home Journal, how do you wile away your 1921 winter vacation in Florida’s Lake Wales Ridge? Why not build the fabled Bok Tower and bird sanctuary on one of the highest hills in Florida? Why not commission the designer of central park in New York City to create your masterpiece? If you are Edward Bok, the question isn’t why but why the heck not?
Before Edward Bok transformed Iron Mountain, it was a simple sandhill measuring a quaint 298 feet above sea level, but still one of Florida’s highest points. After a year of digging trenches, laying irrigation pipe, and trucking in thousands of loads of fertile black topsoil, the site was ready for planting. The original plan included 1,000 large live oaks, 10,000 azaleas, 100 Sabal palms, 300 magnolias, 500 gardenias, and hundreds of fruit shrubs. The plantings were selected for their desirability to the native and migrating bird population for habitat and forage. Today these same plantings provide shade and peace for over 126 bird species and thousands of visitors to the garden every year.
In addition to the sanctuary of the gardens, visitors are attracted to the Reflection pool and the Singing Tower, a 205-foot pink marble art-deco and gothic revival tower featuring a carillon like no other, noted by many to be one of the finest in the world. Concerts are hosted from the 60-bell carillon at 1 and 3pm daily in the gardens.
The large brass door of the tower is closed to only a select few of the generous donors that support the gardens. Behind the doors, lucky tour members will have a chance to see the amazing tile, iron and stonework as well as the Chao Research Center and Anton Brees Carillon Library, considered by many to be the largest carillon library in the world.
TheBok Tower Gardens is open 365 days a year from 8am to 6pm but check their website to confirm. Entry is currently $20 per adult, $10 per child and $5 for a member ticket.