I really THOUGHT Mount Dora was the highest point in Florida. Maybe I assumed so because we are called "mount." Or perhaps because a lot of us here have basements in our homes which is really unusual in flat and sandy Florida.
But I was wrong. Bok Tower Gardens is the highest point on peninsular Florida at 295 feet above sea level. Standing on top of Iron Mountain, where Bok Tower is perched, you can almost imagine this beautiful little garden at one time being an island surrounded by the ocean in some other millennium. The horizon stretches as far as the eye can see in every direction and I bet the sunrise and sunsets are spectacular.
Only an hour drive outside of Mount Dora, Bok Tower Gardens has a rich and interesting history and must be a photographer's dream with all of the saturated colors, textures and light.
I'm one of those people who loves to hear a truly all-American success story. You know the one ... where a person arrives on US soil by boat with 25 cents in their pocket and a head full of hopes, only to become extraordinarily rich achieving their "American Dream" and becoming a humanitarian to boot, making the world a better place because they lived in it. Such is the story of Edward Bok.
Only a child when he arrived in America from the Netherlands, He learned to speak English and mastered the language so well that he became the editor of The Ladies' Home Journal by the time he was 26 years old. Under Bok's watch, The Ladies' Home Journal became the first magazine to sell over 1 million subscriptions. Bok earned the loyalty of readers by using the best paper, the best graphic artists, becoming the first to include full color, and keeping editorial integrity by refusing the easy dollar of "patent medicine" advertising, otherwise known today as snake oil medicinals.
Bok set a standard for himself of always using the best of the best. When he decided to build a carillon tower at his winter home in Florida, he employed the best craftsmen from all trades. The best architects, the most talented medal workers, sculptors, landscape architects and Carillon makers created a national historic landmark for all to enjoy and be inspired by.
Edward Bok later offered The American Peace Award, a $100,000 cash prize to whomever could author the best practicable plan by which the US may cooperate with other nations to achieve peace in the world. (We're still waiting for this prize to be awarded.)
The entrance to the park includes a message from Bok's grandmother that she told him when he was a boy, "Make you the world a bit better or more beautiful because you have lived in it." I think Edward Bok accomplished both within his lifetime.
They call Bok Tower Gardens Florida's "Higher Place." And with such inspirational stories and breathtaking views, I couldn't agree more.