Music, history and nature collide at Bok Tower Gardens

250-acre attraction exposes guests to art of carillon

By Carolina Cardona - Reporter

LAKE WALES, Fla. - On Feb. 1, 1929, one of Central Florida's precious treasures was unveiled to the public: Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales. 

"What you're looking at is really 90 years of history," director of marketing Erica Smith said.

News 6 got a rare look inside the singing tower, which stands at a little over 200 feet high and 200 feet above sea level. The space is kept private to preserve the design and architecture.

"Around the perimeter of the room is our river of life. You're gonna see animals that are found under the oceans," Smith said about the floor design on the tower's first floor. "In the center of the room is the tree of life."

The tower includes an elevator that remains original, dating back to the late 1920s. Smith said Edward Bok knew the musician who plays the tower bells would eventually be too old to climb the stairs, which is why he made sure to include an elevator.

"This was created as a musical instrument. He really wanted to introduce Americans to the art of the carillon. Coming from the Netherlands, he really grew up with bell towers and the beautiful bell music," Smith said.

Just below the 60-bell chamber is the player's cabin where the carillon instrument sits. It's from that musical instrument guests are treated to daily melodies.

Edward Bok, the mastermind behind the artistic beauty on 250 acres of land, had a vision to preserve what he enjoyed while visiting Central Florida during the winters. He was specifically captivated by  the natural scenery of Iron mountain, the land where Bok Towers Gardens sits today.

"He would watch the sunset, and he would look at this beautiful land and said, 'You know, I really can't let this place, you know, be developed. I really want to keep this really beautiful, pristine garden and build it for the future,'" Smith said. 

The iconic signing tower is a neo-gothic art piece that includes carvings of native Florida wildlife and stories from the Bible.

"Adam and Eve are at the very top of the tower as well as on the gold door, the brass door that's behind me, that tells the story of Genesis," Smith said.

The 1,200-pound door is made of pine and covered in brass. The design on the door was created with a technique called Repouseé, in which a hammer is used to tap the artwork from behind the brass. Just outside the tower, is Bok's final resting place.

"This was the pinnacle really, of his life's work and so when he finally did pass it was decided that he would be buried here in front of his beloved tower," Smith said. "He really wanted this to be a place where people could come and disconnect from the world around them and reconnect with nature." 

For more information on tours and pricing or to plan a visit, click here.

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