Sunday, December 28, 2008

Bok Tower Gardens

(Click on the photos for larger images.)

It was a beautiful sunny day in December when we visited Bok Tower Gardens. Christmas carols rang from the carillon in the Tower and the sweet fragrance of camelias drifted through the air.

At first I mistook the camelia blooms for roses, because their smell and appearance are similar.

The intricate details and colors of the Tower are amazing. The exterior is made of colored marble. Scenes of trees, flowers, and wildlife are depicted on colored ceramic tiles. Adam and Eve are in the tile scene at the balcony.

Marble eagles stand like sentinels around the crown of Bok Tower.

There are many places to sit and enjoy the setting.

The hill that Bok Tower stands on is at the highest point of elevation in Florida. You can see the ordered lines of orange groves for miles.

Bok Tower bears the name of Edward Bok. He was a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, and editor of "Ladies Home Journal" magazine during the late 1800's. Nearby Pinewood Estates was the Bok family's winter residence.

Bok became enamored by the natural setting around the hilltop and wanted to preserve it. Bok Tower was dedicated by President Calvin Coolidge after its completion in 1929. The estates were donated to the American people after Bok's death in 1930 as a sign of gratitute for the opportunities they had given him.

We had lunch at the cafe by the Visitors Center and then set out on a path towards the Pinewood Estates' manor house.

The mansion was decorated for Christmas.

A grand old oak tree shades the back of the house. I was impressed with how much of the architecture and decor was Spanish, considering Bok was from the Netherlands and owned a business headquarted in the Northeastern U.S. I asked one of the docents about the Spanish influence and she said that Bok traveled to South America often and admired Spanish styles.

A fountain on a patio near the entrance covered with painted tiles reminded me of the painted tiles at The Columbia restaurant in Ybor City.

I felt a little like Alice in Wonderland walking through a grove of tangerine trees cut into identical topiary shapes as we left Pinewood Estates. I thought about the words of Edward Bok over the entrance to the grounds as we departed, "Make you the world a bit better or more beautiful because you have lived in it."

Lake Wales, Florida is about an hour's drive east from Tampa on Route 60.

Admission Fees
Parking is free. Admission to the grounds is $10 per person. Admission to the Pinewood Estates manor house is $8 per person.

More photos of our visit to Bok Tower Gardens and Pinewood Estates.

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