Looking up at the 205 foot neo-Gothic and art deco Singing Tower carillon is an experience like no other. Designed by famed architect Milton B. Medary and ornately crafted by noted stone sculptor Lee Lawrie, the Tower houses one of the world’s finest carillons. Concerts from the 60 bell carillon at 1 and 3 p.m. fill the Gardens daily.
Interested in touring the inside of the Singing Tower?
Since the primary purpose of the Tower is to house the carillon, tours are limited and available at certain membership levels.
So what’s behind the Great Brass Door?
- On the first floor is the Founder’s Room, created as a private study for Edward Bok.
- Level two and level three contains mechanical equipment.
- The curator’s workshop is on level four.
- The Anton Brees Carillon Library, located on level five, is the largest carillon library in the world. Between level five and six is a practice keyboard.
- The carillonneur’s studio is on level six.
- The carillon fills the upper third of the Tower on level seven.
Directly below the bells, inside the bell chamber is a playing room, housing the clavier or keyboard. There are 211 stairs going from the Founder’s Room to the bell chamber, and an elevator to level 6.
Bok, Medary and Lawrie made it a goal to create perfect unity and symbolism in the design of the Tower. The scheme for the sculptures and grille work is mostly birds and plants with a few other forms of wildlife depicted. Besides various flowers and trees, you can find cranes, herons, eagles, seahorses, jellyfish, fin fish, pelicans, flamingos, geese, swans, fox, storks, tortoise, hare, baboons, Adam and Eve, and the serpent.
The colorful tiles found only in the top third of the Tower were designed by J. H. Dulles Allen depicting the perfect balance in nature, species and gender.
The Great Brass Door and wrought iron gates on the north side of the Tower were the masterpiece of Samuel Yellin, America’s premier metalworker. The door depicts the Book of Genesis, starting with the creation of light and ending with Adam and Eve being ousted from the Garden of Eden. The iron gates leading to the Tower were hand-wrought and showcase zoomorphic figures with various expressions and wings for flight.
The sundial on the south side of the Tower was set in place on October 26, 1928. The gnomon, which indicates time by casting a shadow on the dial face, is made with a bronze rod supported by a bronze snake – the ancient symbol of time. The hours are marked by the 12 signs of the zodiac. A correction table for different periods of the year is located at the base of the sundial.
Edward Bok’s Singing Tower was sited at the highest elevation south of the reflection pool, so the water reflects its full image.