Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Bok Tower Gardens

Bok Tower Gardens (1151 Tower Boulevard, Lake Wales FL), is a National Historic Landmark. It was established by Dutch emigrant Edward W. Bok who moved to America at age six. Through determination and hard work, Bok became a highly successful publisher, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, respected humanitarian and an advocate of world peace and the environment. Bok’s grandmother told him to “make you the world a bit better or more beautiful because you have lived in it,” which he did throughout his lifetime – and it still guides the gardens mission to this day. The 50 acre garden was designed by noted landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. who also designed Central Park in NYC. Acres of ferns, palms, oaks and pine trees create a lush backdrop of flowering foliage with a spectacular seasonal display of azaleas, camellias and magnolias adding bright color to the ever changing palette of the garden. Bok intended the gardens to be a gift to the American people.

The 250 foot marble and coquina Singing Tower is the focal point of the gardens with tile mosaics, animal carvings and custom iron work. It was dedicated by President Calvin Coolidge. Carillon music is played daily. The carillon looks a bit like an organ, but the operator must press leavers and use multiple foot pedals which then trigger the 60 huge bells in the tower to ring. The general public isn't allowed inside the tower. There are only four tours inside the tower a year reserved for members of Bok Tower. The gardens however are open 365 days a year.

The day I visited was dog day in the gardens. A photographer had a dog portrait station set up and there were bowls of water near every entrance to the visitor center. Two life sized bronze gators opened their jaws menacingly at the end of a hallway. People were walking their dogs throughout the park. I believe this was the first time the gardens were opened to dogs. As I sketched, a young couple tried to get their dog to sit for a photo in front of the tower. He was to excited to follow any commands.

At the foot of the tower was a sun dial which was quite accurate. Iron gates kept visitors from getting to the tower's entrance. Edward Bok's grave is right in front of the tower surrounded by lush flowers. Pelicans stood guard at the top of the tower while blue monkeys crouched at the base of colorful glazed ceramic mosaic windows. Behind those windows are all the bells.

Inside the visitor center was an open model that showed the inner construction of the tower. Poets, artists and presidents were frequent visitors when the tower first opened. It was a hot day with a few mosquitoes to buzz in the artist's ears as a distraction. Why is it that men always erect a tall structure in their memory. Freud would have a thing or two to say about that. I'm amazed I had never been here before. This place is a real Central Florida gem.

Mark Your Calerdar! October 19th for the fifth annual Boktoberfest Plant Sale from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.


Due to my impending divorce, I am no longer ALLOWED to sell my artwork. I therefore have no means of income. I apologize to any interested buyers. I will post when I am again allowed to earn a living.

1 comment:

Martin Corbin said...

Thomas,

What a fabulous work of art! Thanks for sharing your talent with the world!

Sincerely,
Martin Corbin
Marketing Manager
Bok Tower Gardens
mcorbin@boktower.org