Tuesday, April 3, 2012

America's Taj Mahal-Bok Tower and Gardens

That's quite a claim to fame in the garden's brochure....America's Taj Mahal...But after seeing the Tower and the gardens today, we have to say, it certainly is one of the most beautiful places we have ever seen in all our travels in the United States. It is located north of Lake Wales, Florida. It's a botanical garden, bird sanctuary and it has a "singing tower"--the 205 foot tower has a 60 bell carillon, one of the most famous set of bells in the world. It's so famous it's a national historical landmark. The 250 acre garden is spectacular, the visitor center gorgeous, and the tower amazing. There's even a nice cafe on the grounds. The view around the grounds is fantastic, peaceful and a sight to behold.

The Bok Tower was the brainchild of a man named Edward Bok...who came from the Netherlands to the U.S. at the age of 6. This man went on to become a Pulitzer Prize winner, and an editor of the Ladies Home Journal, steering it to one of the most influential magazines of the day. He refused to put "snake oil" ads in the LHJ. He used the highest quality paper, color and photos to make the LHJ the classiest magazine of its time. He was quite the man and left an amazing legacy. He was a leader of the Arts and Crafts movement at the turn of the century, he promoted a new architect at the time whose name was Frank Lloyd Wright by putting his house plans into the Ladies Home Journal Magazine. He was a pioneer of sex education, prenatal education and childcare, and this was back in the early 1900's! He was also an environmentalist and a key player in the saving of Niagara Falls- another story in itself.
view at the back of the tower overlooking acres of orange orchards
In addition to the tower, a visitor center, there is a nature trail called the Pine Ridge Trail, and the Pinewood Estate. The mansion was closed today, so we toured the grounds and listened to the live carillon concert played today by Geert D'hollander, one of the top carillon musicians in the world. Live concerts are performed daily at 1:00 PM and 3:00 PM and last a half hour. You are not allowed inside the tower, but you can view the performance by way of a video screen in front of the tower with benches for sitting and enjoying the concert.
koi in the moat
There is a 15 foot moat that surrounds the tower that serves as a koi pond....at the south end of the pool, the construction of the tower was planned at the highest point on the grounds so that you can see the reflection of the entire tower in the pool.
The architectural details of the tower are amazing....the stone used was native Floridian stone called coquina.
There are all kinds of birds and animals in the grill work and in the tower sculptures--geese, swans, fish, pelicans, storks, tortoise, hares, baboons, Adam and Eve and the serpent, cranes, herons, seagulls flamingoes and the list goes on and on....The great brass door on one side of the building depicts the Book of Genesis.
The sun dial is a bronze rod supported by a bronze snake, the ancient symbol of time. Hours are marked by the 12 signs of the zodiac.
There are many, many places to sit on benches and in the shade.....Besides this shelter there were lots and lots of comfortable benches under shady trees to sit and enjoy and contemplate this beautiful place.
There are several beautiful ponds to see and sit by....
Here's another one....
There were many paths to explore the trees, the palms, and the beautiful plantings....
You'd turn a corner and see some unusual flowering plants you've never seen before...
This was the path through the outdoor atrium with the air plant curtain off to one side....
We could have easily spent all day here, admiring the flowers, listening to the music--(the music randomly plays during the day, but the live concerts are at 1:00 and 3:00), and we still didn't see everything there was to see...there was a "Window by the Pond" path that we didn't take. It was an inside observatory with a nature observation window where you could watch the animals in their natural habitat...We'll definitely have to come back to explore this marvelous place again...Thanks for visiting with us today.....at the Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, FL.


  1. Would you believe that after living 30 years in Tampa, we have never been to Bok Towers! I guess we need to put that on our list! Thanks for sharing.

  2. I love that tower and the bells. Visited once when in Ocala, so glad you posted about it and reminded me of another place to visit when I go back.

  3. With all of the "commercial" tourist type spots in Florida, I think this great treasure is often overlooked! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Wow you do find the most interesting places. You should set up tourist service to let folks know where to go. This is very interesting. I've never heard of it or him. Many thanks. Looking to see how far it is from us. Although when it's 83 at noon, walking around outside in the afternoon isn't high on my agenda. :-)

  5. Looks like a lovely place to visit. I'm afraid I have never heard of Mr. Bok; but will add the tower to our sightseeing list.