Due to Covid19 health pre-cautions, Pinewood Estate is closed until further notice.
Nestled in the heart of seven and one-half lush acres at Bok Tower Gardens is Pinewood Estate, the enchanting 20-room Mediterranean-style mansion. Originally named “El Retiro,” meaning “retreat” in Spanish, the Estate was built in the early 1930s for Charles Austin Buck, a Bethlehem Steel vice president.
Pinewood Estate History
Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. had designed Edward Bok’s Gardens and several private gardens inside Mountain Lake Estates, a neighboring private community. Charles Austin Buck engaged Olmsted’s firm to design the landscape of his winter estate. In 1929, landscape architect William Lyman Phillips of the Olmsted Brothers firm began to design the gardens and the placement of the house. In 1930, architect Charles Wait was hired to design the house that has become one of the finest examples of Mediterranean-style architecture in the state of Florida. The Estate was the result of the collaborative inspiration of Buck, Wait and Phillips.
Because Buck was a lover of nature and an amateur horticulturist, the gardens were designed first and the house was positioned later to provide a natural flow from garden to house. The estate’s external landscape and ornamental touches were designed by Phillips, who later designed the world-famous Fairchild Tropical Garden in Coral Gables (Miami).
Phillips’ contributions to the Estate include several wonderful elements: a formal Mediterranean-style garden with a Spanish frog fountain that leads guests into an enchanting stone grotto at the front of the house; an Oriental moon gate fountain off the dining room porch; and an English-style country garden with a rolling lawn and a pond that reflects the afternoon sunsets.
Buck was a great admirer of the Latin lifestyle and architecture, and he wanted “El Retiro” to be reminiscent of it. Wait designed the 12,900 square foot Mediterranean-style home with many characteristics of an antique villa, complete with a barrel-tile roof, thick walls, substantial carved doors and woodwork, and intricately detailed wrought iron.
Wait also included a series of three large porches to provide Buck and his guests with uninterrupted views of the sweeping vistas and a wonderful view of the Tower. The team worked to situate the entire house so that fantastic views from the house were framed by the surrounding tall pine and live oak trees.
In an effort led by Nellie Lee Holt Bok, daughter-in-law of Gardens’ founder Edward W. Bok, Pinewood Estate was acquired in 1970 and “El Retiro” was renamed “Pinewood Estate.” Famed restoration landscape architect, Rudy Favretti, was engaged along with a corps of volunteers to restore the manor to its original glory so visitors could enjoy it.