The tale of two towns: one with murals, the other with a carillon


Peter walking along the mural titled, Bassin’, in Lake Placid.

We uncovered a pretty amazing fact about the town of Lake Placid, Florida (population 2,000) and its commitment to public art. This very town has 46 (and still counting) murals painted on the side of buildings all over town, murals that illustrate the history, cultural diversity, and economic base of this community.


The short story is that Harriet and Bob Porter, Lake Placid residents, retired and traveled around North America on their Gold Wing motorcycle. They landed in British Columbia and found a small town, Chemanius, that had fallen on hard times and had masterminded a mural project that spurred tourism and home-town pride. Inspired by the story, and knowing that their own town of Lake Placid was languishing, in 1992 they started the mural project, commissioning artists and then enlisting financial support from local businesses, to make the mural project a reality. By 2014, there were 46 murals. If you are ever in the neighborhood, check it out.


The Bok Tower is made of pink and gray Georgia marble and Florida coquina, a limestone of shell and coral fragments.

A few days later we met up with Ken and his partner, Fred. Ken is an old friend of Peter’s who, now retired, reports he most “enjoys watching the Weather Channel in between naps” in their Fort Lauderdale condominium. We visited the town of Lake Wales, home to the Bok Tower Gardens, a pretty amazing 50-acre garden created in 1929 by Edward Bok as a gift to the people of his adopted country, the United States, where he made a fortune in publishing. At the Garden, there is a regular live concert given on one of the world’s finest 60-bell carillon. The carillon is housed in a magnificent neo-Gothic meets Art Deco tower that Bok had built. It stands 205 feet in height on one of the highest points (just under 300 feet) in the Florida peninsula. On the very sunny, windy, and cool day we visited, we sat outside and heard a recital of a Bach prelude, two contemporary compositions for carillon, and a selection by John Williams adapted for the carillon. What is a carillon? It’s a collection of bells – this one has 60 bronze bells – the largest of which weighs over eleven tons (!) and the smallest of which weighs just 16 pounds. Each bell is connect by a mechanic devise to the “keyboard” that is played by the carilloneur who is basically moving the hammer in each bell so its strikes the bronze bell and creates a unique note that creates the entire composition. The carilloneur we heard was a graduate of Yale University where he majored in Mechanical Engineering and just completed (2012) studying Carillon performance, composition and instrument design at the Royal Carillon School in Belgium. There is so much to learn in the world and so little time, so we keep moving. Come on along…



3 thoughts on “The tale of two towns: one with murals, the other with a carillon

  1. While in seminary, the University Carillon used to be rung in concert every Sunday afternoon. Leigh and I would sit on our front porch and listen. Great stuff!


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