As you stroll the palatial grounds here at the Pinewood Estate it’s tough to believe that a man who spent his days in and around a steelworks would have this much Mediterranean style. Then, again, Bethlehem Steel VP, Charles Austin Buck, had the best talents in the business working to turn a swath of central Florida hill country into a sprawling Spanish Estate. In designing the estate, Buck’s architects and decorators spared no expense in creating a “real deal” Romanesque and Moorish manse. Completed in 1932, Mr. Buck christened his new escape “El Retiro.” The place is incredible inside and out.

The exterior of the 12,900-square-foot manse is every bit the Mediterranean villa Buck envisioned. Barrel tile roof, sweeping lines, hand-carved doors and decorative wrought iron.

Inside, I was suitably stunned to find wall-to-wall hand-cut flooring and matching wall tiles, hand-painted in Spain. Buck had the flooring shipped in from Cuba, one of his favorite Caribbean hideaways. Each room is different – and more stunning than the next. As you walk through, be sure not to bump any of the decorations. Some of the statuary and furniture dates back to the 17th century.

Each bedroom is decorated in its own unique style – and comes complete with a private bathroom. Another “modern” convenience is electricity, installed during construction – and some of the lights still work. Now that’s a wiring job!

One thing that today’s visitors enjoy that was not available to the original owners is central air conditioning. It’s nice to be able to study the interesting architecture that allowed the Bucks to remain relatively cool, but it’s much easier to appreciate if you don’t have to experience it. God bless climate control!

While I was impressed with the Pinewood Estate’s rich cultural and architectural sights, my bride was enthralled with the three surrounding gardens. Each one has a signature theme, giving it a unique personality, including the formal garden with the signature Spanish frog fountain and stone grotto, the moon gate fountain in the garden nearest the dining room and an English country garden on the west side of the property where a quiet pond reflects the sun as it crosses the sky and disappears behind the horizon.

Pinewood will be closed for a month – October 28th to November 25th – while Bok Tower Gardens’ volunteer angels decorate with this year’s “Christmas at Pinewood” theme. Each year concerts and programs are offered that reflect the chosen theme. This year one of the programs is “Wintersong” by Tammerlin. This beautiful and unique holiday program consists of ancient and modern carols, poems, readings and seasonal songs. Guests will have the opportunity to meet the artists at a special champagne reception following the concert. Reservations required for this event.

When the estate reopens, visitors can take self-guided tours Monday through Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. and on Sundays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Admission tickets for Pinewood can be purchased at the Entrance Gate, Visitor Center and at the Pinewood Estate front door.

Pinewood Estate is located at the Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida. The Singing Tower itself is worth a trip, but we’ll save that for another day. For more information about Pinewood Estate or to purchase tickets to tour Pinewood during the holidays, click this link: Pinewood Estate or call 863.676.1408.

Photos courtesy Bok Tower Gardens

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

7,670 and counting

7,670 and counting

I was at the grocery buying an anniversary card, because that’s what you do when the Hallmark next door has vanished without a trace. The cashier snuck a peak at the card and her eyes went wide. “Happy Anniversary! How many years.”“Twenty-one.”“Wow. Uh … I...

Writer & Editor: The Perfect Team

Writer & Editor: The Perfect Team

I work with some terrific editors who understand the subtle difference between directing a writer and correcting their work. Both are important; and both are vital to a successful story. But the secret to that success lies in understanding when and where...

Spell Check Two-Step

Spell Check Two-Step

In their preschool years, of my boys’ favorite shows was a PBS educational cartoon called Super Why. The four main characters in the show, the “Super Readers,” are storybook characters with reading-based super-hero alter egos. One of the characters in the...

Research as a Creative Writing Prompt

Research as a Creative Writing Prompt

Research allows you to learn things you did not previously know. Duh. It also introduces you to new worlds, strange ecosystems and unfamiliar social networks. This new information has the potential to blast through your writer’s block like dynamite… if...

Vero Beach

Vero Beach And Other Hidden Gems on the Treasure Coast   When vacationers, even many Florida natives, think about hitting the beach on the Atlantic coast, they head to Daytona, Cocoa, Lauderdale or Amelia Island. Florida’s Treasure Coast is treated as...

Captiva, FL – Pirates, Parrots & Mucky Ducks

Situated off the southwest coast of peninsular Florida just north of Sanibel Island, Captiva takes its name from a local legend. According to the tales, infamous swashbuckler, Jose Gaspar, imprisoned women he was holding for ransom somewhere on this little...

Banish Writer’s Block For Good

Many, if not most prospective writers are born storytellers. Sergeant Friday would hate us because we rarely, if ever, stick to “just the facts, ma’am.” We love to recite even the simplest activity in narrative form. Whether it be a relatively mundane...

Avoid This Communication Trap

With his trademark understated cultural satire, Bill Watterson strikes a chord for all of us who are sick to death of — or at least hopelessly confused by — empty jargon, meaningless, business-speak and other words that take up space but communicate...

Lady and the Scamp

Lynette Birch has a simple philosophy. It hangs around her neck, a thin charm wrought in gold, a single letter connected to a twisted strand of rope. Y knot. This message pours from the heart and radiates from the smile of a lady who has every reason to...

5 Cups of Coffee

Ferris Bueller said life goes by too fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you just might miss it. I wondered if maybe “once in a while” just isn’t enough. We put so much emphasis on weekends and annual vacations we drain the fun and...

Gay Marriage & Religious Freedom

Every since the SCOTUS agreed to hear arguments related to gay marriage, some very prominent religious leaders have stated that legally protected gay marriage could force churches to perform gay weddings. Those leaders are lying … and they know it. Now...

Outdoors Adventure in Appalachian Foothills

The forests, foothills, rivers and valleys that span the boundary between Georgia and Tennessee are some of the oldest “destinations” in the United States. Pioneers from the original 13 colonies were bushwhacking into this beautiful country over the “Far...

20 Years, 5 Kids, and a 10-Ton Tomato Box

Bob Farewell made his first cross-country RV trip in 1967. “I grew up in Berkeley in the 1960’s. Frustrated with what the culture was doing around me, I decided to get away.” To make his escape, Bob bought a 1955 Metro step van and converted it into an RV....