Surrounded by gardens and orange groves, hidden inside the town of Lake Wales is Florida’s own Bok Tower. This tower is of historical significance to Florida and is also the highest point on the Florida peninsula, said Cynthia Turner, director of marketing for the historical site.
The Bok Tower story in began 1869 when Edward William Bok came to the United States from the Netherlands at age six. He was harassed at school because of his language barrier but several years later he became fluent in English, eventually developing into a professional writer.
“He became very wealthy, grateful and prosperous,” Turner said.
Bok was an environmental activist and helped preserve Tiger Creek, a Florida stream that runs through Lake Wales. His dedication to preservation shows in the gardens that surround the tower.
“It has meditative gardens; it is all about your own personality,” Turner said.
Sweeping lawns and resting benches line the garden’s colorful pathways. For those who enjoy hiking, trails wind throughout the 250-acre sanctuary and different nature excursions are offered at various times of the year.
“People come here to clear their heads, especially during exams. We have added a lot of family enhancements along with secret gardens and napping benches,” Turner said.
Turner said Bok initially designed the sanctuary as a bird sanctuary.
As the sanctuary progressed, he built a carillon tower to be a visual and aural centerpiece for the garden.
“Bok had this built and it was built out of a pure gift. It is so incredible, no one really knows the exact cost,” she said.
The National Historic tower is 205 feet. The tower has a gothic look and is made out of marble and coquina. This bell tower houses world famous carillons or bells. Being a carillon tower, the music is heard throughout the gardens every hour and has different playing schedules within the hour.
Each key inside the tower is made by a person controlling the music that sits at an instrument similar to the modern day organ, yet plays the instrument in a totally different manner.
“There are 60 bells suspended in a steal frame clapper,” Turner said.
She added that the bells do not move, instead the clappers that are located inside every bell produce the chime sounds.
Different types of gardens located here are the White Garden, a popular wedding spot, and the Round Garden, which features year round color.
USF student Amanda Dowd said she and her fiancÃ©e learned about the sanctuary on the Internet.
“We came here to see if we want to get married here,” Dowd said.
The Window by the Pond overlooks a quiet pond, which is a place where visitors tend to accumulate when surprising rain happens to fall on their hike through the gardens. Here, visitors watch the wildlife while inside a hut. The visitors can sit down on benches and just relax.
“I come here to find myself,” Barbara Else, a yearly visitor, said.
The sanctuary provides the public with an exedra along with an overlook. An exedra is a semi-circular seating area made with pink marble. This seating area is a place for families to meet up and picnic as well as the overlook that looks over Florida’s lands at a 298-foot elevation.
The Bok Tower Sanctuary provides visitors with different visiting plans, including the one, two or three hour visit plan. These plans are accessible through the front offices of the sanctuary. The plans allow visitors to map out their time and plan an adventurous day within the time frame allowed.
For more information concerning special events and hours go to: www.boksanctuary.org .