LAKE WALES,  FLORIDA

Updated September 17, 2020

We know many of you are limiting travel during these uncertain times.  Although we continue to feature trips and places to visit, we are not encouraging you to visit them until it is safe.  We want to support Florida's attractions and businesses during this situation, and hope you will plan to visit them when things get better.  In the meantime, enjoy them virtually from the comfort of your home. 

Lake Wales is a town of about 17,000 people in Polk County, Florida.  The town lies next to the intersection of US-27 and SR-60, two of Florida's major highways in the days before interstates.

Vintage Postcard Lake Wales Mountain Lake SanctuaryVintage Postcard Lake Wales Mountain Lake Sanctuary

It is located west of Lake Kissimmee and east of Tampa. Downtown Lake Wales is on Scenic Highway State Road 17.

This scenic highway takes you north to Haines City through hundreds of thousands of acres of citrus groves.  Lake Wales was in the center of these groves and a major location of packing and shipping businesses.

Lake Wales Citrus Company LabelLake Wales Citrus Company Label

If you take it south you will go through even more groves on your way to Babson Park, Frostproof, Avon Park and Sebring.

The land that now includes Lake Wales was surveyed by Sidney Irving Wailes in 1879. He changed the name of a nearby lake, Watts Lake, to Lake Wailes.

Lake Wales Florida DowntownDowntown Lake Wales

The town of Lake Wales was established next to this lake in 1911-12 by the Lake Wales Land Company.

The spelling Wales was used for the city, although the lake is still generally spelled Lake Wailes....if you can remember to do it.

In 1925 the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad built a new line from Haines City through Lake Wales on the way to Everglades City way down south near Naples. A depot was opened in the downtown area.

Lake Wales Grand Hotel, Formerly the Dixie WalesbiltLake Wales Grand Hotel, Formerly the Dixie Walesbilt

Lake Wales is still a fascinating city, with the old 1920's vintage hotel still dominating the downtown skyline and currently being renovated.

Downtown Lake Wales has been gentrified and is a fun place to shop and dine.

Lake Wales Florida MuralLake Wales Downtown Mural

MOUNTAIN LAKE CLUB

At one time Lake Wales was best known for the Mountain Lake Club, a private community founded in 1915, with a top-ranked golf course designed in 1916 by Seth Raynor.

Mountain Lake has a fascinating history and is part of Florida lore not always found in the history books.  It is still a very exclusive place to live.

The community was founded in 1915 by Frederick S. Ruth of Baltimore. He bought 3,500 acres in the hilly, fertile land, which is among the highest in the state of Florida.

Mountain Lake Club, Lake Wales, FloridaMountain Lake Club, Lake Wales, Florida

Ruth hired Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. to lay out 600 acres of the property for the residences and brought in Seth Raynor to design the golf course. Olmsted's father had designed Central Park in New York and Biltmore Estates in Asheville.

Mountain Lake has only 125 residences, few of them within sight of the golf course, so the gently rolling land is open and space is abundant within the very private grounds.

Famous residents have included Edward Bok, publisher of The Saturday Evening Post, The Ladies Home Journal, and the creator of nearby Bok Tower Gardens.

The Mountain Lake Historic District is on the National Register of Historic Places.

LAKE WALES FLORIDA AND BOK TOWER GARDENS

In the mid 1920s Edward W. Bok, the publisher of The Saturday Evening Post and The Ladies Home Journal, owned a home at Mountain Lake.

He had come to America from Holland and became very successful in his career. He wanted to give something back to his new country, so he acquired over 100 acres of the highest land in the Lake Wales area and created what is now known as Historic Bok Sanctuary.

Path at Bok Tower GardensPath at Bok Tower Gardens

The "Singing Tower" is one of the world's most renowned carillons, and outdoor concerts and other events are scheduled on a regular basis. Bok  Sanctuary also hosts an international festival of carillonneurs each year.




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