Historic Bok Sanctuary – The Singing Tower

Florida Guide > Days Out

Arguably the most prominent feature of the Historic Bok Sanctuary is the bell tower, which sits on the highest point in Florida, at the top of Iron Mountain near Lake Wales and can be seen for many miles around.

The tower was commissioned and built by Milton Medary of Philadelphia in a two-year period (1927-1928) to house the carillon, a collection of sixty bronze bells manufactured by an English company, John Taylor Bell Founders of Loughborough. It also served as a centrepiece to the gardens designed and over the same period by landscape architect Frederick Olmsted.

For the statisticians amongst you, the tower stands at two hundred and five feet high and the bell weights range from sixteen pounds to over eleven tons with a combined weight of over sixty tons.

Unfortunately the tower is not open to the public but at least the visitor can gain an insight into its interior through the video tour shown in the orientation film at the Visitor Center. Don’t let this put you off because the structure of the tower is just stunning. Although basically a steel frame with brick walls the outer facings consist of a grey and pink Georgian marble together with Florida coquina, a type of limestone with shell and coral fragments which give the tower a wonderful iridescent quality that is a joy to behold.

The Carillon bell chamber is housed in the top third of the tower (where the magnificent sculptures of herons and eagles can be truly appreciated) with the keyboard room just beneath where the Carillonneur uses a combination of hands (keyboard) and feet (pedal board) to make a mechanical connection with the bell clapper to produce the unique and melodious sound.

At every half hour brief digital recordings of both classical and popular pieces fill the air and twice a day at 1. 00pm and 3. 00pm the Carillon delights guests with a thirty- minute concert that usually contains some well-known and recognisable medleys. During our visit we were treated to renditions of Waltzing Matilda, Amazing Grace and that popular David Gates ballad If a Picture Paints a Thousand Words.

The best listening places are where the views to the tower are uninterrupted but there is dedicated concert viewing area where visitors are invited the watch the Carillonneur play via a video telecast.

This is a world away from the hustle and bustle of Orlando and its theme parks, but it is a place where you can relax, ‘recharge the batteries’ and experience the calming influence of the carillon.

We hope you enjoy it.

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