The Book Posse headed to Lake Wales to visit Bok Tower Gardens, a National Historic Landmark. The Posse enjoyed the acres of flowers, tranquility and communing with nature. They also enjoyed the ice cream and the weather. But mostly they enjoyed not hearing the constant hum of traffic.
In the spring the azaleas are starting to bloom along with the magnolias and camellias. The Gardens cover about 50 acres. They were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted from 1924 -1928.
Visitors can thank the vision of Edward William Bok; because of him this piece of land has been preserved and the tower built. It stands 205 feet tall. Construction started in 1927 and was completed in 1929. It weighs about 5,550 tons, and is built of steel, marble and coquina, a type of limestone containing shell and coral fragments.
The tower’s bells play carillon music several times a day. It has sixty bronze bells ranging from sixteen pounds to over eleven tons. It plays a full concert at 1:00 and 3:00 pm as well as tunes on the hour and half-hour. Sit by the reflection pool, listen to the music, and watch a pair of swans frolic in the water.
The tower is located on one of the highest points in Central Florida, around 300 feet above sea level. There is some debate as to whether it is the highest point or the second highest point, but regardless, the vista from the hilltop is one of the grandest in Florida.
The Gardens sit on an ancient sand dune system called Lake Wales Ridge. The ridge itself sits on top of an iron deposit. The sand and soil display a reddish tint from the oxidized iron.
The Window by the Pond exhibit and the Pine Ridge Nature trail offer an opportunity to observe animal life. The Window overlooks a manmade pond, and provides bird watching opportunities. Along the Nature Trail the Posse spotted gopher tortoises, a raccoon and various reptiles. The Gardens are part of the Great Florida Bird Trail.
Edward William Bok (1863-1930) immigrated to the United States from the Netherlands at the age of six. He edited the Ladies Home Journal from 1889-1919. He won a Pulitzer price for his autobiography The Americanization of Edward Bok (1920).
We can thank Edward Bok’s desire to preserve Earth’s beauty making it available to others and for the existence of Bok Tower Gardens. They offer a beautiful place to visit, relax, and step back to a more sedate time.