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Bok Tower Gardens

One of the most peaceful places in the world

By

Bok Tower, Lake Wales, Florida
Compliments of Dawn Henthorn
The story of Edward Bok is remarkable. He was only six years old when he came to America from the Netherlands. As he was about to embark on his journey, his grandmother told him, "Make the world a bit better or more beautiful because you have lived in it." He always remembered those words.

Indeed he did. The historic Bok Tower and Gardens, Bok's gift to the American people, is one of the most beautiful places in Florida and one of the few places that has been left untouched by the march of time and the unchecked growth of Central Florida.

Through the years visitors have been drawn to this sanctuary because it is peaceful and and serene. That hasn't changed. On our visit recently, we were completely drawn in by the garden's beauty, intrigued by the Sanctuary's history and in awe of the tower's majesty. The Santuary provided a much-needed respite from a too-busy life and a reminder of why it is often referred to as Florida's Higher PlaceSM.

The Gardens

In 1922 Edward Bok set out on another journey. He was so awed by Iron Mountain in Florida, that he acquired a large tract of it and asked America's most famous landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., to transform the area into a sanctuary that would "touch the soul with its beauty and quiet."

The gardens were carved out of sandy soil atop Iron Mountain, that was originally covered with pines and palmettos. The area was transformed into meandering paths, open spaces and tranquil resting spots that comprise the informal woodland gardens. The gardens complement the Florida native live oak hammock with a mix of native and exotic plants and the beautiful vistas offer views of the Florida countryside and the picturesque tower.

The Singing Tower

Remembering the sound of carillons in his native Holland, Bok commissioned the belltower to be built as the focal point for the surrounding gardens. The 205-foot tower was designed by architect Milton B. Medary, who drew his inspiration from the Gothic towers and churches of Europe. It was crafted by noted stone sculptor Lee Lawrie. Lawrie used four million pounds of Georgia marble for the ornate structure that took two years to construct. The bells, housed in the top of the tower, were individually cast and tuned. The 60-bell carillon can be heard "singing" daily throughout the sanctuary.

In 1929, the "Mountain Lake Sanctuary and Singing Tower" was dedicated by President Calvin Coolidge. Today it's a National Historic Landmark. Edward Bok's lasting gift to the American people indeed made the world more beautiful... in sight and sound.

Pinewood Estate

Also a National Historic Landmark, this classic Florida winter estate of Edward Bok is located adjacent to the sanctuary and is accessible by a footpath from the gardens. Tour its grounds anytime and enjoy daily scheduled interior tours.

Exhibit Hall and Museum

Edward William Bok lead an interesting and successful life. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author was the editor of the Ladies Home Journal for over 30 years. Under Bok's management, the magazine became one of the most successful and influential publications in America and the first magazine in the world to have one-million subscribers.

The story of Bok's life is laid out in photos and historical memorabilia in the museum along with the story of the Sanctuary's creation and the crafting of the tower. Hands-on exhibits include ringing of a bell from the original keyboard.

The award-winning exhibit hall and museum is part of the large and spacious Visitor's Center that serves as an impressive entry where you will start your meditative journey.

Carillon Cafe and Tower & Garden Gift Shop

Adjacent to the Visitor's Center is the Carillon Cafe where, before or after your journey through the sanctuary, you'll want to stop in for a meal, snack or beverage.

You'll want to save time to browse through the Tower & Garden Gift Shop. In one of the best gift shops I've ever seen, you'll find souvenirs, keepsakes, gifts, music and garden necessities for everyone on your list.

Information and Directions

Historic Bok Tower Gardens is open every day of the year from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., with last admission at 5:00 p.m. Admission is $12.00 for adults, $3.00 for children ages 5-12 and children under age 5 are admitted free. Members are admitted free and group rates for 20 or more are available with advance registration

Physically challenged visitors are encouraged to bring their own wheelchairs, but limited wheelchairs and adult strollers are available at no charge. Single passenger electric mobility carts are available for rent on an hourly, half-day or full-day and "as available" basis. There are a limited amount of strollers available at no charge on a first-come-first-served basis.

Boke Tower Gardens is located at 1151 Tower Boulevard, Lake Wales. Take this link to plant your trip and directions.

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