Visiting Bok Tower Gardens

Visiting Bok Tower Gardens
A prominent Florida botanical garden and National Historic Landmark, Bok Tower Gardens sits atop Iron Mountain, overlooking the city of Lake Wales. Although not really a mountain, Iron Mountain is one of the high spots on the Florida peninsula at 298’ above sea level.

The property is named for its former owner, Edward W. Bok, who donated it to the American people in 1921 to express his gratitude for the opportunities given him in the U.S. He had immigrated from the Netherlands at the age of six and eventually became a “successful publisher, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, respected humanitarian and an advocate of world peace and the environment. He was editor of the Ladies' Home Journal for 30 years.” His grandmother had given him these words to live by, “Make you the world a bit better or more beautiful because you have lived in it.” Throughout his life, Mr. Bok lived by those words.

Bok Tower Gardens covers an area of 130 acres. Noted American landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. designed the gardens to provide a place of serenity and beauty and to serve as a bird sanctuary. Plant displays change with the season, although some, such as the native plant garden are permanent.

Bok commissioned Philadelphia architect Milton B. Medary to design and build the 60-bell carillon “Singing Tower.” It is a 205-foot-high work of art in the neo-Gothic and art deco styles, built with a steel frame covered by “coquina stone from St. Augustine, Florida, and pink and gray marble from Tate, Georgia.” The carillon bells, ranging in weight from 16 pounds to almost 12 tons, were “designed and built in 1928 by John Taylor Bellfoundry, Ltd. of Loughborough, England.” Concerts can be heard daily at 1 and 3 p.m.

Other notable features of the preserve include the Pine Ridge Nature Trail, a ¾-mile path through a longleaf pine and turkey oak ecosystem; the 1.5-mile-long Preserve Trail that traverses a former citrus grove being restored to its original longleaf pine habitat; and Pinewood Estate, a “20-room Mediterranean-style mansion…built in the early 1930s for Charles Austin Buck, a Bethlehem Steel vice president.” A children’s area, Hammock Hollow, recently opened. This is a playground, sculpture garden, and natural area for young families to explore.

Open every day of the year from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Bok Tower Gardens is located at:
1151 Tower Blvd, Lake Wales, FL 33853

The Visitor Center, Blue Palmetto Café, and Tower & Garden Gift Shop are open from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. The café serves breakfast, salads, soups, sandwiches and wraps, and desserts, as well as non-alcoholic and alcoholic (beer and wine) beverages.

Daily admission tickets for the gardens only, or combination tickets for both the gardens and a self-guided tour of Pinewood Estate, can be purchased at the entrance gate. There is no additional charge for parking. Annual membership passes may be purchased at the visitor center.

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