Welcome to FloridaPast's Bok Tower & Bird Sanctuary Page
Here you'll find history, images, now & then fades, and links to other Bok pages
"The Singing Tower"
Taj Mahal of America
Mountain Lake, FloridaPast
AKA - Bok Singing Tower
Since much history has been written about this Famed Attraction, we borrowed the best to share.
"When Bok Tower Gardens founder Edward W. Bok immigrated to America from Den Helder, Netherlands at age six, he did not understand the language, customs or culture. Through determination and hard work, he 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 our mission to this day."
"During visits from their Pennsylvania residence to their winter retreat near Lake Wales, Florida, Mr. Bok became enchanted with the beauty and vistas from nearby Iron Mountain. At 298 feet above sea level, one of peninsular Florida’s highest points, Iron Mountain offered views of dramatic sunsets. Awed by the tranquility of the area, he wanted to create a place that would “touch the soul with its beauty and quiet,” and chose it as the perfect setting for a bird sanctuary. He purchased land to transform into a sweeping landscape of lush gardens featuring a majestic Singing Tower housing a 60-bell carillon. Originally called Mountain Lake Sanctuary and Singing Tower, he presented this extraordinary gift to the American people Feb. 1, 1929 as an enduring token of his appreciation for the opportunities he had been given."
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A bit more interesting history borrowed -
"The gardens began in 1921 when a Dutch immigrant, Edward W. Bok, editor of the popular women's magazine Ladies Home Journal and his wife, Mary Louise Curtis Bok, who would found the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia in 1924, were spending the winter beside Florida's Lake Wales Ridge and decided to create a bird sanctuary on its highest hill (298 feet above sea level, 91 meters).
Bok commissioned noted landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. to transform what then was an arid sand hill into "a spot of beauty second to none in the country". The first year was spent digging trenches and laying pipes for irrigation, after which soil was brought to the site by thousands of truck loads and plantings began. The Olmsted plan included the planting of 1,000 large live oaks, 10,000 azaleas, 100 sabal palms, 300 magnolias, and 500 gordonias, as well as hundreds of fruit shrubs including blueberry and holly.
Attempts were made to introduce flamingos to the sanctuary several times, which is why early renderings of the tower show flamingos at the reflection pool rather than swans. These early efforts were unsuccessful, however, as the flamingos were not native to central Florida and could not survive the winters that were cooler than those of southern Florida where they may be found.
Under construction for over five years, Bok Tower Gardens was dedicated by President Calvin Coolidge on February 1, 1929. Edward Bok died on January 9, 1930 and was interred at the base of the tower."
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