At one of the highest points of the Florida peninsula, you'll see a bright pink beacon, 200-feet tall, that looks like something you might find in an alternate city along the Yellow Brick Road. It's surrounded by acres of orange groves, palm trees, great oaks, ferns and, most impressively, a 15-foot-deep moat.
The marble tower's only entrance, a heavy brass door, is closed to the public. The tower is only accessible to members.
The Bok Tower Gardens were founded by Dutch immigrant Edward W. Bok in 1921. Bok was the editor of the "Ladies Home Journal" and created the tower for a bird sanctuary and commissioned the design of the surrounding gardens by the Central Park designer. The Singing Tower, the pink Gothic Revival and Art Deco centerpiece, was added in 1927.
The tower’s distinct pink color was a nod to the flamingos that the sanctuary had hoped to attract, and there are even intricate renderings of flamingos along the tower. Sadly, attempts to introduce actual flamingos to the sanctuary failed. Even the relatively mild winters of central Florida proved too cold for the flamingos and eventually, swans were added to the moat instead.
So what's behind the brass door?
Go up to the top floor and you'll see a secret library...dedicated solely to the subject of bells. It's the Anton Brees Carillon Library and, as you might imagine, it's one of the largest bell-related libraries in the world.
So, perhaps unsurprisingly, the tower also contains a bell chamber with a clavier for playing it's 60 carillon bell set.
The ground floor hosts The Founder's Room, designed to look like a secret masonic meeting place. A wrought-iron 211-step staircase and original Otis electric elevator transport visitors to the various levels. Of course, the gorgeous grand hall has been the site of many members-only marriage proposals.
But the tower isn't the only feature of the gardens. The Pinewood Estate, a 20-room Mediterranean Revival mansion (built 1930) is open to the general public and hosts a cafe and guided tours. But it's the gardens themselves, with peanut dispensers for feeding wildlife, that are the real jewel of the property.
Nowadays, Florida's new attractions like Universal Studios, Disney World and South Beach are the prime draws for tourism. But give this piece of "old Florida" a chance and you'll have the pink tower all to yourself.
Credit: MessyNessy Chic