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Bok Tower Gardens

January 22, 2011

Where can you find “The Singing Tower”? Do you know the state? Then can you name the place?
Here’s a quick overview of this unique place.

Central Florida has an interesting place called “The Singing Tower.” Located in Lake Wales, Florida, this architectural masterpiece is the focal point to Bok Tower Gardens, a National Historic Landmark. Distinctive to the area, its unique architecture rises to a height of 205 ft. These two sites, the Singing Tower and the Bok Tower Gardens, are both part of the life and legacy of Edward Bok.

Edward Bok

Edward Bok was a man who came to America from the Netherlands with his family at the young age of 6. He became a successful publisher and Pulitzer-Prize winning author with his hard work and determination. Edward became the editor of the Ladies Home Journal in 1889 which was the first magazine in the World to reach a million readers. Edward’s early childhood years in the Netherlands, started his interest in music and in bell towers. That led to his desire to build a musical tower which houses 60 bells.

The Bok Tower Gardens were created

Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. was one of the most distinguished landscape architects of the time. His father was the father of landscape architecture. Together they worked on the Biltmore Estate and between the two of them, landscaped many of the landmarks in DC including the White House, the Jefferson Memorial and the U.S Capitol Grounds. Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. received the AIA Gold Medal in 1929 in recognition for his lasting influence on the theory and practice of architecture.

The gardens are populated by 126 different species of birds, the gopher tortoise (threatened) and the eastern indigo snake (endangered). A small observatory named “window by the pond” allows a place for visitors to watch birds, reptiles, butterflies and native species. Many of the plant species cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

The Bell Tower

A mix of neo-Gothic and art deco features are used in the design of the tower. The designer was Milton Medary, an architect from Philadelphia. Coquina Stone from St. Augustine, Florida and marble from Tate, Georgia were used for the crafting. Sculptural elements of the tower exhibit Florida flora and fauna. References to Aesop’s Fables can be found as well. The tower was set in place on Oct 26th 1928. Calvin Coolidge was present for the dedication.

Taking only 2 years from design to completion, the bell tower still remains an architectural wonder. A pond in front of the bell tower enables viewers to see the bell tower’s reflection in the water. A sundial hangs on the opposite side of the tower. The dial is tilted slightly in order to align to true north. The large teakwood door, overlaid with brass opens into the Founder’s Room. The elevator goes up 7 floors with the top floor being the location of the Carillon.

The interior of the bell tower is an awesome sight. The tile floor exhibits Egyptian design with a star in the center. Up the elevator on one level, the landscape can be viewed from a 360 degree perspective. Beautiful! Ascending up to the top level, we viewed the magnificent bells which hung from the tower ceiling. Inside the chamber, the playing room houses a keyboard that is used to play the bells. Tolling began at 3pm with the familiar tune of America the Beautiful.

There’s a library of tunes for the carillon (the musical instrument of the bell tower)…. This collection of carillon music is unmatched in the world. So you may hear a variety of tunes from the bell tower throughout the year. We felt a unique sense of admiration for the man who embraced the vision for this special tower called The Singing Tower.

The interior of the Tower is open to Garden members during events.

Edward Bok was a visionary. His ability to see the potential of the gardens and the tower as a landmark to Florida and to America was remarkable. Its treasures like this one that make America what it is today.

You’ll enjoy visiting The Bok Gardens and seeing the architectural details of the Singing Tower. There are important trivia facts to remember from this place.

The owner was Edward Bok, former editor of Ladies Home Journal.
The gardens protect endangered plant species unique to the world.
The bell tower holds 60 bells which play music from the largest carillon collection in the world.

If you remember these facts, you’ll not only impress the people around you but you’ll enjoy knowing something special about central Florida.

David Price, President of Bok Tower Gardens, provided an amazing tour. His extensive knowledge of the tower and the gardens captured the passion that Edwin Bok must have had for his beloved gardens.

OTHER little known facts:

The tower has 211 stairs to the Bell Chamber.
Edwin Bok is buried at the base of the tower.
Blue Baboons are a part of the symbolic elements in the design of the tower. No specific information is known on their meaning in the design.

There’s more to discover about the Bok Singing Tower. Enjoy the discovery!


America’s Most Decorated World War I Soldier.

May 30, 2010
Do you know who is America’s Most Decorated World War I Soldier?  It’s Sergeant Alvin York.  You may either know his story or you may have seen the movie about his life as a hero.  TNT usually airs the movie “Sergeant York” during the Memorial Day weekend. 

We visited Alvin York’s hometown to hear the story of his life.  It is a fascinating story.  Pall Mall, Tennessee is located in East Tennessee and his original home has many artifacts from his amazing life.  The most interesting aspect is that he did not believe in killing another human being because of his christian beliefs.  So when Alvin was drafted into the army, he was torn.  Consulting his pastor, he referenced one of the ten commandments “thou shalt not kill.”  He asked what he should do.  The pastor quoted scripture that reminded Alvin that a Christian is to follow the rules of the land.  If he was recruited into the army then he must abide by that law.  So Alvin did just that!

Being an excellent hunter and turkey shooter, he decided that he would do everything he could to protect the others in his troop while attempting to never shoot anyone.  Imagine that!  Alvin entered the war with the intent to honor his country and honor God.  Some may have thought that it would not be possible.  But Alvin prayed about it and that’s why his story is so miraculous. 

Alvin York, when faced with a difficult situation against the German soldiers, lacked the backup soldiers to hold them back and certainly not to overtake the Germans.  But with his sharp shooting, Alvin was able to keep the Germans under control and eventually gather them together.  With more Germans than Americans, the Germans were fearful of Alvin’s shooting expertise and were convinced that his confidence translated to a backup of American troops.   Alvin and a few other American soldiers were able to walk the group of Germans to the location of the American Army. 

Alvin was able to honor his country and honor God at the same time.  It’s an amazing story.  And Alvin York’s life after the war continued to honor his country and honor God.  It’s a lesson for all of us who struggle with seemingly conflicting obligations.  Alvin did not have to sacrifice his beliefs in order to abide by the law of the land.  Through prayer and his commitment to be an honorable man, he accomplished more than he may have imagined.  And from those efforts to live life the right way, he became America’s Most Decorated World War I soldier.

If you would like to read more about the story of Alvin York, visit You’ll see a link to the rest of the story from the home page under Stories Revealed.

Finding Treasures!

May 24, 2010

You’ve found the blog site for America’s Treasures.  We’ve been discovering treasures all across America for over 15 years.  The treasures that we find are golden nuggets of interesting information that have been hidden or forgotten.  We dig up the facts, find the story under the dust then share the discovery! 

It’s amazing what we find.  When we uncover a story, many times we receive comments like “after 30 years of collecting pieces of the story, no one has ever asked for the information.”  We also run into people who have a bit of trivia to share.  It seems everyone has something that could be considered a treasure story.  And we love to hear the stories!

That’s what it’s all about!  Sharing the stories about America’s Treasures.

So, here on this blog, we will tell the stories behind finding the treasures.  We’ll share how we discovered the little known facts or who told us to dig up a story.  And the things that happen after we uncover a treasure, well, we’ll reveal those stories too!

Join us regularly for the stories that only we can tell.  That’s America’s Treasures.

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