Pinewood Estate is a historic home on the outskirts of the city of Lake Wales. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it is now part of the Bok Towers Gardens attraction. This impressive house was built in typical Mediterranean style in a tranquil hilltop location. It can be toured with knowledgeable docents who retell the history of this family home.
The home was built in 1930 to accommodate the luxurious lifestyle of Charles Austin Buck. He had made his fortune as an industrialist in the early 20th century at Bethlehem Steel and no expense was spared when the house was built. Charles Wait designed the house you see today. He used thick walls and deep shady porches to keep the house cool, and added shuttered windows and carved woodwork to give a typical Mediterranean feel. “El Retiro” as the house was originally named, was intended as a winter home for Buck and his family of 9 children and 18 grandchildren. It covers an area of 12,900 square feet and has 20 rooms.
Buck appreciated Latino architecture and obtained many of the beautiful tiles featured throughout the house from Cuba. The house has an antique barrel-tile roof, ornate metalwork balconies and many other typical features, making it one of the finest Mediterranean-style villas in Florida.
Buck was a keen horticulturist and he had the gardens designed first and the house was then placed to give a natural flow between the gardens and the house. He commissioned Fredrick Law Olmsted Jr., who had earlier designed the adjoining Bok Tower Gardens for Edward Bok, to take charge of the gardens. Under Olsted, William Lyman Phillips was assigned to design and maintain the outdoor space. Phillips later went on to design the Fairchild Tropical Gardens in Miami.
Phillips created several eye-catching features in the gardens that could be enjoyed when looking out from the house. At the bottom of the sloping lawn is an Oriental Moon Gate and a small lily pool which enhance the views from the veranda and dining room at the back of the house. You can still see the lovely Spanish frog fountain in front of the house, and the stone-paved path leading away from it ends at a charming stone grotto.
The eight acres of gardens are now partly incorporated into the main gardens at Bok. However the immediate grounds around the house are still maintained as they would have been in Buck’s day. The flagstone courtyards, tile-fronted steps, low box hedges and huge terracotta urns continue the Mediterranean theme throughout the estate.
The house had several owners after the Buck family and it was eventually acquired by Bok Tower Gardens in 1970. It was restored to its original design, complete with 1930s kitchen and beautiful feature fireplaces.
Tours of Pinewood Estate
The guided tours begin in the wood-paneled entrance hall and morning room. The Butler’s Pantry still has many original fitments. There is a family dining room, the “round room” and Mr. Buck’s office. The loggia and east and west porches are still lovely places to enjoy the tranquility of this peaceful spot high on a hill, at least by Florida’s standards. The outdoor terraces all have garden views within sight of of the nearby pink marble carillon tower, completed in 1929 and dedicated by President Calvin Coolidge.
Upstairs there is the main bedroom along with four others, some with attached bathrooms showing authentic 1930s fitments. The house is fairly sparsely furnished which lacks atmosphere. However, if you visit in the holiday season from late November through January 1, the house is always decked out beautifully with a Christmas tree in every room. The rooms are decorated to a common theme by various local businesses and a team of 200 volunteer “angels”. The theme for 2011 was “Welcome to the Show” and decorators were very imaginative with themes from "White Christmas" to "How the Grinch Stole Christmas". Part of the fun of the holiday tour was that visitors could vote for their favorite room with the chance to win dinner catered for them at Pinewood House.
If you plan to visit Pinewood Estate, admission and a tour of this historic home is offered as part of a combination ticket to Bok Tower Gardens.
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