The Singing Tower
Escape the hustle and bustle of central Florida’s theme parks by enjoying a relaxing stroll through the lush greenery of Bok Tower Gardens.
Located in Lake Wales, just south of Orlando, Bok Tower Gardens sits atop Iron Mountain, one of the highest points of land in peninsular Florida. Named after Dutch-born publisher Edward W. Bok, the gardens and the Singing Tower were given as a gift to the American public upon its completion February 1st, 1929.
The centrepiece of the grounds, the Singing Tower, comes from the 60-bell carillon that can be heard throughout the gardens at various times of the day. Crafted from local stone, Georgian marble and colourful tiles in the Gothic Revival and Art Deco style, the Singing Tower also houses the extensive Anton Brees Carillon Library and Chao Research Center Archive. At the base, a massive bronze door is engraved with scenes from the Book of Genesis. The tower is not open to viewing of the public. Concerts of the carillon are performed daily, at 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm — a monitor near the tower provides a view of the carillonneur playing inside the tower.
Koi in the tower moat
With the help of landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead Jr., Bok’s dream of preserving a part of nature for the enjoyment of others was turned into reality. Nestled in the gardens is the Pinewood Estate, a restored 1930s mansion that was one home to steel-making executive Charles Austin Buck. Winding paths provide respite among palm, oak and pine trees with azaleas, camellias, lavender, magnolias and many other flowering plants.
Our visit to Bok Tower Gardens started on a late Wednesday morning, so not too many people wandering about. Weather was perfect — partly cloudy, warm with a nice breeze. In the courtyard of the visitor’s centre, a small display of the flowers in bloom lined a table. It’s a neat way to introduce you to plants you might not know the name of.
At the base of the Singing Tower is a moat filled with koi. As I leaned closer to get some pictures, one of the fish surfaced, most likely thinking I would toss something edible into the water. I didn’t, but it did give me an opportunity to get a few good pictures.
The tower itself is quite intricate in details. The massive bronze door, from a distance, doesn’t clearly show the lovely details. With my 300 mm zoom lens, I was able to get a couple clear shots of the story from the Book of Genesis. Further up the tower, elegant carvings of birds line the balconies, while various pastel-hued tiles form creatures great small over the windows and carillon housing. Statues of herons grace the tip of the tower. Apparently, just steps from this door is the grave of Edward W. Bok; unassuming in size, a rectangular slab of stone is inset into the grass ringed by small white flowers.
A refreshing breeze wafted through the trees on the summit of Iron Mountain. Just past the tower is a break in the Spanish moss-draped trees with sloping field which provides a rare sight in Florida — a vista of the lower lying lands, many of which are covered in neatly planted rows of orange trees. What a view!
We took lunch in the Blue Palmetto Cafe after touring the grounds. With a selection of salads, wraps and even hot dogs, it was a great compliment to a day out. Don’t forget to try the ice cream!
Admission is required to visit Bok Tower Gardens, but is reasonable considering the time you’ll spend admiring the flora and fauna as well as the music from the Singing Tower. The visitor’s centre provides a greater look into the life of Edward W. Bok and the tower’s and garden’s architects. There’s also a gift shop, flower shop and cafe so you can take a little bit of the tower and gardens back home with you.
Enjoy a selection of photos from the gardens and the detailing of the Singing Tower on Gallery.