Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Historic Bok Sanctuary

We arrived in Lake Wales on Monday with the purpose of touring Bok. I remembered our friends, Steve and Sandy, had visited years ago and told us how nice it was, so when we were trying to decide on a route home and I saw it on the map it made our decision for us. But first, we had to wash and wax the RV. We want her to be clean when we put her in storage. So, Monday was a workday. We were pretty fortunate that we were able to wash and then wax 75% of the RV before the rains came. Have we told you that every time we wash the RV it rains? Well, it does.

Tuesday was pretty crappy, too. We ran some errands, then drove around downtown Lake Wales, ate lunch out, and just kept waiting for the rain to stop so we could go to the Tower and Gardens. The trick worked, too! The rain slowed to a drizzle and there was some openings in the blanket of clouds. The Bok Tower is a 60-bell carillon bell tower. Edward Bok built it on Iron Mountain which is the highest point in Florida. At a whopping 320’ above sea level, it actually does provide a panoramic view in this otherwise flat state. The 205’ tall Bell Tower itself is architecturally beautiful. It is made from coquina, marble and colored tiles with some wrought iron accents. The bells are hidden behind the tile murals. Statues and Florida-scenes are carved into the marble. Then it is surrounded by a moat and the gardens. The smallest bell weighs about 12 pounds, where the largest one is over 11 tons. In the visitor center they have a cut-out of the largest bell so you can see its size. If I stood next to it with my arms stretched high, I could barely touch the top of the “bell”. We were fortunate to have waited til the afternoon since the bell recitals are only at 1pm and 3pm. So we were serenaded by the bells as we walked around the gardens. The Sanctuary is on 50 acres. The gardens are filled with native Florida plants, such as a variety of palms, ferns, oak trees, philodendrons, trumpet trees, fire bushes, camellias, and more. Benches are scattered about encouraging you to sit and relax.
For an extra fee you can tour Pinewood Estates, which is a large Mediterranean estate built in the 1930’s. This was the Buck family’s winter home. After seeing this, we would’ve liked to have seen this Bethlehem Steel executive’s home in PA. The home was decorated for Christmas which just added to its charm and appeal. Andy and I decided we could live in this house. Mr. Buck wanted each room to be unique. Nothing could be duplicated. So, although there were dark-wood cypress doors in every room, each were inlaid or carved with a different pattern. Although there were wrought iron sconces or chandeliers in every room, each were a different design. Although there was colorful tile highlighting staircases, fireplaces, and accents, each room displayed a different color scheme or pattern. Although most rooms had original Cuban terracotta floor tiles, each room were laid in a different pattern. You get my point, right? For its size, this mansion felt downright homey with its 3 fireplaces. The house was also built for the Florida heat with lots of windows and multiple screened porches. There were lots of creative and interesting architectural points of this home that the volunteers were eager to point out. Well worth the tour. And well worth staying in Lake Wales just to visit Bok.

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