Edward W Bok was an immigrant from the Netherlands who became a successful publisher and author. Whilst spending a holiday in the area in 1921 he hit upon the idea of creating a bird sanctuary and gardens on one of the highest hills in Florida. After extensive work the gardens and signing tower were open to the public on 01 February 1929 and given to the nation as a thank you by Edward B Bok. I have visited the 250 acre gardens several times and have enjoyed wandering around watching the wildlife and checking out the gardens. One of the main attractions is the 62 metre tall singing tower which houses a 60 bell carillon. For an addition fee you can visit the Spanish Villa at Pinewood Estate, located in 8 acres of grounds next to the gardens at Bok Tower. There are plenty of benches to sit and rest as you wander around. The gardens have a gift shop, a small museum, exhibition hall and a nice restaurant.
When we first visited Bok Tower, one of the things I remember best about it was seeing wood ducks swimming in the reflecting pond. This time, all we saw were the mute swans (photo 4).
There IS a new Florida Natives Exhibit which features a series of "native"species of Florida snakes,turtles, arachnids and mammals in naturalistic enclosures. This attraction includes a display case showcasing archive photographs and information on the world famous naturalist Ross Allen which might be of interest, although we did not visit this.
After lunch, we did walk through the endangered plants area near Window by the Pond in the lower east side of the Sanctuary, the location of the Endangered Plant Garden was chosen for its openness and full sun. This area was a former citrus grove and not part of the original Olmsted designed gardens. Photos 3 and 5.
There is also a Pine Ridge Nature Preserve with a 3/4-mile walking trail through this endangered longleaf pine and sandhill ecosystem. Visitors can see many endangered plants and animals found nowhere else in the world. The historic Bok Bird Sanctuary is listed on the Great Florida Birding Trail and is a wonderful spot to see many endangered and threatened birds, such as the Wood Stork and Florida scrub-jay.
The centerpiece of this wonderful sanctuary is the Bok Tower, standing 205 feet on top of the highest peninsular point in Florida. The tower was built during 1927 and 1928, for the private use of the Bok family. The structure is steel frame with brick walls and an outer facing of pink and gray Georgia marble and a Florida limestone and shell and coral fragments.
The sculptures along the tower are intricate and depict scenes of nature surrounding the tower. There are carvings of herons and eagles staring down the tower. There is also a sundial on the one side, with an inscription that reads "This Singing Tower with its adjacent Sanctuary was dedictaed and presented for visitation to the American People by Calvin Coolidge, President of the United States, February 1929."
Visitors are given a 30 minute concert twice a day (1:00 pm and 3:00 pm) and Tuesday evenings at 7:30 pm, of the wonderful 60 bell carillon. Though the tower is not open to the public, spectators can watch the carillonneur perform via video...
edward w. bok was a dutch immigrant who made his fortune as editor of the ladies home journal. in 1921 he purchased the largest hill in the lake wales ridge. he hired milton b. medary to design and build a late gothic revival carillon tower. he also hired frederick law olmsted jr. to design a park around the tower. olmsted's father was the designer of central park in new york city. twice a day the sixty bell carillon is played for the enjoyment of visitors to bok tower. a very beautiful and interesting place to visit in central florida.
when fredrick law olmsted jr. designed the gardens he added a reflection pool and a koi pond. the refection pond is to the north of the tower and when the light is right you can see a mirror image of the tower. the koi pond is located at the base of the tower. bok tried to introduce flamingoes to the hill but they could not adjust to the climate. today the gardens attract many kinds of birds and other wildlife. pictured is a swan swimming in the koi pond.
bok tower is located on a fifty acre hill that is surrounded by a beautiful garden and orange groves. the garden was designed by fredrick law olmsted jr. on the hill around the carillon tower 1000 oak trees were planted as well as 10,000 azaleas, 100 sabal palms, 300 magnolias and hundreds or more plant species. a beautiful place to visit when in central florida.
pictured is one of the carved windows of bok tower. there are several windows and inscriptions on the tower. the inscription under the sun dial on the south side of the tower reads "this singing tower with it's adjacent sanctuary was dedicated and presented for visitation to the american people by calvin coolidge, president of the united states, february 1929.
In all the natural beauty of the Gardens, Edward Bok believed something was missing. Remembering the glorious sound of carillons in his native Holland, he decided to build a beautiful Tower as the focal point of the Gardens and a permanent home for a carillon. Insulated from everyday activities and noise, this spot would prove to be ideal for repose and for enjoying the pure sound of the bells.