Bok Tower Gardens
Warren Resen - North American Journalists Association
Photo courtesy Bok Tower Gardens
Central Florida is known for world-class attractions and Bok Tower
Gardens is one of them. Located atop Iron Mountain, it is the
highest elevation on the Florida peninsula at 298 feet.
Nearly 700 acres of conservation lands and
gardens occupy these dizzying heights which surround the
world famous 205-ft "Singing Tower" carillon and the 20-room 1930s
Mediterranean-style Pinewood Estate. Two hundred and fifty acres are
dedicated solely to the gardens.
Designed by Fredrick Olmsted Jr., whose
family's firm designed New York's Central Park, these are one of
America's premier gardens. Bok Tower Gardens afford visitors a
breathtaking and constantly changing three season display of
colorful plantings and daily views of Florida's magnificent sunsets.
The signature feature of the gardens though
is the "Singing Tower" carillon soaring 205 feet above ground level.
A carillon is one of the largest of all musical instruments. What
you see from ground level is actually a musical instrument enclosed
in a magnificent casing. There are only four designated carillons in
Florida, approximately 200 in North America and 600 worldwide.
|Jeanne and Warren at the Tower
The public can tour the gardens, hike the wooded trails, watch
wildlife unobserved inside the "Window by the Pond," tour the 1930s
Mediterranean-style Pinewood mansion, and view the exterior of the
"Singing Tower" while enjoying frequent performances of wonderful
music emanating from the carillon. (Hint)... While the sound
of the carillon's bells carries 1/4 mile in all directions,
the best listening post is approximately 250 feet from the base of
However, the one place not open to the
public is the interior of the carillon's tower. Even members of Bok
Tower Gardens usually get no further then the first floor Founder's
Room when permitted entry during special events. Going all of
the way to the top, meeting the carillonneur, having him play a
request and viewing the bells up close and personal is a rare treat
and that is what I want to share with you.
Built in 1928 and dedicated by Edward Bok in
1929, the "Singing Tower," is visible for miles from all points of
the compass. It is the focal point and signature of Bok Tower
To be classified as a carillon, a facility
must have a minimum of 23 cast bronze bells. Bok Tower has 60 bells
ranging in size from 16 pounds to 12 tons. So how did they get those
huge bells all the way to the top?
registry. Stairs behind me go up to the "instrument
During construction, the bells were hoisted
up through the unfinished center of the structure after which the
interior was finished.
The bells are set into fixed frames and are
struck by clappers attached to wires operated from an "instrument"
that looks like a cross between piano and organ. The "keys" and foot
pedals are pounded, literally, by the carillonneur to move the
cables that move the clappers that strike the fixed bells. Playing
this instrument cannot be remotely compared to a keyboard artist
tickling the ivories. A carillon's bells are tuned just after they
are cast and before installation. If tuned correctly, the bells
never have to be re-tuned.
Geert D'Hollander pounding on the "keys"
Entering the interior of the tower through
the magnificent brass covered teak door featuring 30 glowing panels
that depict the story of creation as told in the book of Genesis,
you are in Level 1, the private study of Edward Bok. The intricately
designed mosaic floor prominently features a six pointed star
representing the Six Days of Creation.
A few of the
Some of the Tower's speakers.
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