The Singing Tower is what sets Bok Tower Gardens apart from other tourist attractions, museums, and gardens around the United States of America – and even the world. Inspired by one man, and erected in an extremely unique location, the Gardens have always held a special place in the hearts of those who have visited us throughout our 85-year history as an organization.
Here are a few facts you may not know about the Singing Tower, and they’ll give you something interesting to think about as you gaze at this incomparable structure situated on what was once an arid sandhill amidst the orange groves of Lake Wales.
- The Singing Tower was inspired in part by St. Rombald of Mechelen. Architect Milton Medary adapted the design of Edward W. Bok’s Singing Tower to “the gentler and warmer climate of Florida,” but used a lot of inspiration of the Gothic towers and churches in Europe. He envisioned the Tower “bathed in scintillating sunshine, silhouetted against the blue of southern skies and mirrored in the placid waters of a pool.”
- Some of the artwork adorning the Tower was inspired by Aesop’s fables. Sculptor Lee Lawrie, who is best known for his Atlas sculpture in New York City’s Rockefeller Center, adorned the Tower with various reliefs in marble including several depicting these famous stories like The Fox and the Stork and The Tortoise and the Hare.
- The Tower is 205 feet tall, the same height as a 20-story building. Although 20 stories could be accommodated, there are only seven functional levels inside the Singing Tower: Founder’s Room, Chao Research Center Archives, Storage & Mechanical Equipment, Maintenance Workshop, Anton Brees Carillon Library, Carillonneur’s Office & Studio, Carillon Bells & Playing Cabinet.
- It took two years to build the Singing Tower. Construction began in 1927 and was completed in late 1928. President Calvin Coolidge dedicated the Tower and Sanctuary “for visitation by the American people” on February 1, 1929 – just seven months before the Stock Market Crash of 1929. Today, Bok Tower Gardens is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization and is supported by tax-exempt gifts and contributions. All revenue and Membership support continues Edward W. Bok’s dream of helping to preserve and sustain this gift of beauty for future generations.
- The sundial was the last feature of the Singing Tower put into place. It was set in place on October 26, 1928 as construction neared completion. Until this point, a ramp was in its place which led through a huge opening large enough to admit the bells and steel frame to which the carillon is mounted.