Bok Tower Gardens was Edward Bok’s gift to the American people. The property encompasses Iron Mountain, one of the highest points in Florida. The carillon tower was built atop the 295-foot high hill. Within the tower is one of the world’s finest carillons, a bell-based instrument and the heaviest of all musical instruments. The site also houses the world’s largest carillon library, with books, articles, recordings, music scores, slides, and photographs only on carillons.
The 205-foot neo-Gothic and Art Deco Singing Tower, was designed by architect Milton B. Medary, with stone sculpture by Lee Lawrie, the creator of Atlas at Rockefeller Center.
A brass door, which depicts the Book of Genesis, and wrought iron gates were created by metalworker Samuel Yellin, whose works also grace both the Washington National Cathedral, Washington D. C. and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York, NY. The upper third of the tower is covered in tiles created by H. Dulles Allen.
The gardens were designed by noted landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, one of the designers of New York City’s Central Park and the architect for the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina.
The Bok gardens 60-bell carillon is played every day at 1 and 3 p.m. (There is a recording of the carillon here.
Good news for anyone who was obsessed with Legos growing up: The creative division of Merlin Entertainment, which runs LEGOLAND theme parks worldwide, is looking to hire 20 “Master Model Builders” at their factory, known as the “Merlin’s Magic Making Hub,” in Lake Wales, Fla., a spokesperson tells TIME.
The company says it is accepting applications from people of all backgrounds, so Lego fans don’t necessarily need to be architects or graphic designers to throw their hat in the ring. In the past, the interview process has involved build-offs, requiring applicants to construct a Lego model based on a photo.
The Florida site is said to have hired about 50 model builders so far, and there are about 100 of these builders working at facilities in California, Malaysia and throughout Europe.
Merlin Entertainments Group, the European company behind Legoland Florida, purchased the real estate of a former Harley Davidson dealership in Lake Wales for $1.4 million.
The price equated to $46 per square foot.
The 6.94-acre site on North U.S. Highway 27, south of State Road 60, contains a 30,458-square-foot building. It was built in 2006.
Merlin Entertainments acquired it to serve as the creative home for its local team of Lego Model Builders and Lego Model Designers. The firm plans to have more than 40 builders who assemble the Lego sculptures and seven designers to form Lego creations for its Legoland Resorts and Legoland Discovery Centers. The property will not be open to the public. A hotel on the property opened earlier this year.
Bok Tower Gardens was the dreamchild of Dutch-American publisher and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edward W. Bok. His desire was to create an outdoor sanctuary that would “touch the soul with its beauty and quiet” as a gift of appreciation to the nation that had afforded him so many opportunities. To design the sprawling gardens, Bok enlisted the famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead, Jr., whose designs also grace the Biltmore Estate, the National Mall in Washington, DC, and various National Parks across the nation. Later, Bok commissioned a 205-foot gothic revival and art deco “Singing Tower” of marble and native coquina designed by architect Milton B. Medary to become the centerpiece of the gardens. The tower would house a 60-bell carillon set whose discordant tones would echo throughout the property. Dedicated in 1929 by President Calvin Coolidge, the site is now a National Historic Landmark and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
You should begin your visit to Bok Tower Gardens at the Visitor Center where you may view a brief orientation video, collect a garden map, and peruse the historical museum. The Visitor Center complex also houses the Blue Palmetto Café and the Tower & Garden Gift Shop. When you do your tour of the property, in addition to the Singing Tower, Olmsted Gardens and Pinewood Estate, be sure not to miss the Endangered Plant Garden, Sunset Overlook, and a personal favorite the Window By the Pond.
So when is the best time to visit Bok Tower Gardens? In a news release from a previous year, Director of Horticulture Nick Baker said, “We expect azaleas to peak the third week in February and continue through March.” Although the gardens are beautiful any time of year, the landscape is especially lovely in the early spring.
Bok Tower Gardens 1151 Tower Boulevard, Lake Wales, FL, 33853 (863) 676-1408