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Bok Tower Gardens
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Welcome to Floridata's portrait of Bok Tower Gardens, one of America's most unique and beautiful landmarks. We hope our Fact Track to this historic and cultural treasure will inspire you to visit in person.

Bok Tower and reflecting pool My First Introduction...
I first discovered The Singing Tower as a toddler. There it was, in all of its pastel glory, illuminating several postcards in grandma's souvenir stash drawer. I can still recall Sunday evenings spent gazing at postcard souvenirs from previous Florida vacations. I drooled (literally) at pastel images of water skiing pyramids at Cypress Gardens and the even more exotic mermaids of Weeki Wachi Springs. But most fascinating of all was the Singing Tower! Resplendent in the water-colored photographs, the tower looked like something from a fairy tale.

Nearly twenty years later I finally encountered the Singing Tower in person discovering it to be even more magical than I had imagined. It could indeed serve as a stage that would do any fairy tale proud (hmmmm, Repunzal comes to mind!) These days I visit Mr. Bok's masterpiece whenever I have the chance, I hope this web page encourages you to do the same. - Jack Scheper 9/7/99

History
In 1869 the young Edward William Bok (1863 - 1930) arrived in Brooklyn, New York from den Helder, in the Netherlands. At 13 he quit school to assist his struggling family working as an office boy and free lance writer. He wrote reviews and edited a church newspaper. By the age of 22, his company, Bok Syndicate Press, was selling women's features to newspapers. In 1889, at 25 he was hired as the editor of the very popular women's magazine, The Ladies Home Journal where he enjoyed a brilliant 30 year career. By the turn of the century his magazine was the most popular in the country and Mr. Bok amassed a fortune.

Edward William Bok PortraitHe retired in 1919 and in 1922 purchased a large tract of scrub and pine land on Iron Mountain, a 298' high prominence located near Lake Wales, Florida. Admonished by his grandmother to "Make you the world a bit better or more beautiful because you have lived in it", Mr. Bok now had the time and resources to do both. It was his desire to do nothing less than create an American Taj Mahal. His book of that name carries this dedication to the tower's designer: "To Milton B. Medary, for his architectural conception of a Tower with no ancient, medieval or modern precedent and of surpassing beauty, nativeness and originality..."

The actual garden is the design of the Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. (son of the landscape architect who gave us New York's Central Park). The garden remains true to his original design. Under construction for over 5 years, the garden was dedicated by President Calvin Coolidge on February 1, 1929 (this was during the same Florida trip in which the President and Mrs. Coolidge also dedicated a new park for The Senator, Florida's Big Tree in nearby Sanford).

A Final Resting Place...
Mr. Bok died on January 9, 1930 at his home just a short distance from the Tower. He is buried in a crypt at the foot of his beloved carillon.

The Garden Grows...
The Singing Tower quickly became one of Florida's most popular early tourist attractions. The 1939 Federal Writer's Project Guide to Florida contains the following entry for the Gardens: "open 8-5; picnicking prohibited; no dogs allowed; men requested to wear coats; parking 25 cents."

The Garden Today...
Originally constructed as the "Mountain Lake Sanctuary and Singing Tower" the property was renamed Bok Tower Gardens in 1986 in honor of its creator. The property is now operated and maintained by the Bok Tower Gardens Foundation, a not-for-profit corporation dedicated to the preservation of both the garden and Mr. Bok's spirit and sense of conservation and preservation of natural treasures.

Dogs are still not permitted in the gardens (there are kennel facilities however), but you will be happy to note that picnic areas are now available and coats are optional for men! Please join us for Floridata's mini-tour of Bok Gardens - it is a 4 page Track - click the Next button to continue the tour.

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