Historic Bok Sanctuary
Historic Bok Sanctuary
Nestled in the heart of central Florida is Historic Bok Sanctuary, a stunning living gallery of art and history unlike any other in the world. And, in 2004 it will celebrate its 75th anniversary. If you think you have to go to the Biltmore Estate to walk through gardens designed by the famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., think again. If you think the decorative designs of American’s foremost metalworker Samuel Yellin can only be seen at America’s most prestigious universities and in Philadelphia, New York City and Washington, D.C., not so. If you think you have visit New York City to enjoy the awesome sculpture works of Lee Lawrie, creator of the legendary Atlas presiding over Rockefeller Center, you don’t. If you think that only Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. showcase the architecture of noted architect Milton Medary, they aren’t. The works of all of these famed artisans are all featured at Historic Bok Sanctuary in Lake Wales.
Edward W. Bok was a first generation immigrant who came to America at the age of six from the Netherlands. Through his outgoing personality and enterprising spirit, he achieved great success in America. Mr. Bok became editor of Ladies Home Journal, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, humanitarian, philanthropist as well as an advocate for world peace and the environment. And, he managed to do something that had never been done before and has not been done since. He convinced the very best artisans of his day to come together to create a collaborative masterpiece of architecture, history and nature—known as Historic Bok Sanctuary.
In an attempt to explain what he had created and why, Mr. Bok wrote in 1929: "The purpose of it all? Simply to preach the gospel and influence of beauty reaching out to visitors through trees, shrubs, flowers, birds, superb architecture, the music of bells, and the sylvan setting."
Seventy five years later, Historic Bok Sanctuary is one of Florida’s original attractions and its more than 250-acres comprise three primary features: the Olmsted-designed gardens, the marble and coquina bell tower that encloses a world-renowned carillon and a stunning Mediterranean Revival mansion called Pinewood Estate. The combination of the Sanctuary’s meditative landscape, its stunning architecture and carillon along with the historical significance of it all provide visitors with an oasis for reflection and inspiration. Visitors can enjoy the voice of the "Singing Tower" as the resounding music of one of the world’s finest carillons fills the garden.
Visitors can watch an orientation film and enjoy museum-quality exhibits about the life of Edward Bok and his accomplishments, the history of the carillon and the Lake Wales Ridge and stroll a historic landscape garden designed by noted landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. He first gained fame by working with his father to design the grounds of Biltmore Estate and eventually to design the gardens at the White House and other prominent landmarks throughout the country.
At Olmsted’s Florida masterpiece—Historic Bok Sanctuary—tree-canopied sweeping pathways lead visitors through a series of romantic recesses and tranquil resting spots toward picturesque vistas and breathtaking views of the Tower. Acres of ferns, palms, oaks and pines create a lush backdrop for the spectacular seasonal bursts of colorful blooms of azaleas, camellias and magnolias and other flowering foliage that create an ever-changing work of art. One of the most extraordinary elements of Olmsted’s landscape design is the clever way it builds suspense by allowing visitors only brief glimpses of the Tower as they stroll through the gardens. From the banks of the reflection pool, the majestic Tower is framed by palm fronds and Spanish moss. As you stroll along, it continues to vanish and reappear. At each glimpse along the way, visitors are awed by the beauty and magnitude of the 205-foot-tall magnificent "Singing Tower."
The Tower was designed by Philadelphia architect Milton Medary and features a unique fusion of neo-Gothic and art deco styles. Inside the Tower is an equally unique musical instrument called a carillon played by a carillonneur using closed hands and feet to depress the keys on the keyboard. One of only four carillons in Florida and 200 in the country, Historic Bok Sanctuary’s bells range in weight from 16 pounds to nearly 12 tons and were cast in 1928 by one of the world’s oldest and most well-known bellfoundries, John Taylor Bellfounders of Loughborough, England. The quiet, open space surrounding the Sanctuary provides a premier listening and performance setting for the carillon. The sounds of the bells delight visitors with clock music during the day and with a 45-minute recital each afternoon.
Pinewood Estate, originally named "El Retiro," meaning retreat in Spanish, offers tours of a 20-room Mediterranean Revival mansion built in the early 1930s for Charles Austin Buck, a Bethlehem Steel vice president. Having made a fortune in steel, Buck built a winter estate that features many characteristics of an antique villa—a barrel-tile roof, thick walls, substantial carved doors and woodwork and intricately detailed wrought iron. He also included a series of three large porches to provide Buck and his guests with uninterrupted views of the gardens and grounds designed by William Lyman Phillips of the Olmsted Brothers firm and a wonderful view of Bok Tower. Daily guided tours of Pinewood Estate require a separate admission prices and arrangements are made in the Education and Visitor Center. Each year, an interior designer and 150 angels transform the mansion into a not-to-be-missed spectacular holiday showcase called "Christmas at Pinewood."
Historic Bok Sanctuary—a timeless treasure for visitors of all ages—offers an abundance of aesthetic, cultural and personal enrichment. Perhaps esteemed writer John Burroughs best described the Sanctuary: "I come here to find myself. It is so easy to get lost in the world."
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Pictures and information were provided by Historic Bok Sanctuary
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