Edward William Bok was a successful editor and Pulitzer Prize winning author. During his time as editor in the late 19th to early 20th centuries, he propelled the Ladies' Home Journal to a success that no other magazine had ever known. Most important to him, however, was another role: philanthropist.
He established a long list of awards that would be given to those that found ways to benefit their communities. Born in the Netherlands, Bok came to American as a small child and attended school in New York City. He never took for granted the opportunities that had been given to him in this country, a he wanted to find a way to show his appreciation to the people of America.
He found it in Florida. Bok was wintering in Florida when he had the idea of preserving the top of Florida's highest hill, Lake Wales Ridge. After purchasing the land, he enlisted the help of renowned landscape artist Fredrick Law Olmsted, Jr. Bok's vision was to create a place of great beauty and serenity as well as a sanctuary for birds.
Bok Tower Gardens also includes a body of water, called The Reflection Pool. The pool was added to ensure that wildlife would come - and would want to stay - in the garden.
When the garden was completed, Bok added a tower that was not only beautiful to look at, but also made beautiful music. The Singing Tower, designed by architect Milton B. Medary, is home to a 60-bell carillon which makes music that visitors can enjoy. The clock bells can be heard all day on the half hour, and two concerts are held each day.
There is much to see at the Bok Sanctuary. In the fall, giant lily pads that are up to five feet in diameter and can hold the weight of a child can be seen in the Reflection Pool. There is also a museum dedicated to the life and work of Edward Bok. The Pinewood Estate, a 20-room mansion that was built in the 1930's, is also open for tours.
So beautiful are the grounds that Bok Tower Gardens was listed as one of the top 100 wedding destinations in the United States. There are also many educational programs for both children and adults.
Only about an hour drive from Tampa or Orlando, the Bok Tower Gardens is a must see during a visit to Florida.