|by Augustus Mayhew
From Henry Flagler to Walt Disney, developers transformed the Florida peninsula into a tangled gridlock of seasonal resorts, subdivisions, malls, office buildings and theme parks. The Sunshine State’s coastline is walled with concrete canyons aswim in asphalt, its Everglades now a destination for casino gambling and CSI film crews, while Central Florida affords far more contrasting environments — among them, the pre-Pleistocene 100-mile long Lake Wales Ridge, the Edenic vision at the Bok Tower Gardens and Disney’s Utopia abloom at the Town of Celebration.
These diverse scenic perspectives only add to the appreciation for the Palm Beach area’s latest faux naturale, artificial reconstructed wetlands. So, take a break and enjoy NYSD’s red carpet ride through some uncommon Florida landscapes, vanishing, vivid and virtual, as much settings for one of J.G. Ballard’s science fictions as wish you were here postcards.
Archbold Biological Station, Lake Placid
|With the onset of World War II curtailing scientist and philanthropist Richard Archbold’s trail blazing accomplishments during the golden age of flying-boat exploration, his friend and Stuyvesant School classmate, Donald Roebling, thought the vast preserve surrounding his parents unbuilt Central Florida estate would be the perfect location for Archbold to stage his expeditions, conduct his research and provide Archbold a place to foster the work of other scientists and students. And thus, because of the shared interests of two old friends, Roebling, the great-grandson of John Augustus Roebling, the designer of the Brooklyn Bridge, and Archbold, the grandson of John Dustin Archbold, the president of Standard Oil, the Archbold Biological Station has today become one of the world’s most respected scientific research laboratories and a National Natural Landmark.|
|Formerly associated with NYC’s American Museum of Natural History, where many of his Madagascar and South Pacific discoveries remain part of the museum’s collections, Richard Archbold devoted his life to preserving and expanding his refuge for Florida’s endangered species and plant life until his death in 1976. Since then, his sister, Frances Archbold Hufty, now 97 and a longtime Palm Beach resident, along with her family members have headed up Archbold Expeditions, the foundation set up to oversee the Lake Placid property and facility. Seventy years later, what began as a 1000-acre mosquito and ant sanctuary has evolved into a more than 5,000-acre internationally-recognized research facility focused on ecological research, conservation and educational programs.|
|The Nature Trail always has a view of the water tower.|
|The library provides the latest scientific journals.|
|As an explorer and aviator, Richard Archbold was the Indiana Jones of his time. His 1938 expedition to New Guinea’s Balim Valley uncovered a Stone Age culture unknown to the outside world as well as tree-climbing kangaroos, spiny anteaters and three-foot rats. A lake in central New Guinea, Lake Archbold, was named in his honor.||This photograph of Richard Archbold hangs in the research center’s library.||Frances May Archbold Hufty, chairman of Archbold Expeditions. A Palm Beach resident for more than 70 years, Mrs. Hufty carries on her brother’s work.
Photo courtesy of the Palm Beach Daily News.
Bok Tower Gardens, Lake Wales
|Sixty miles north of the Archbold Biological Station along US-27 is the Bok Tower Gardens, situated atop the state’s highest point where the Lake Wales Ridge reaches nearly 300 feet above sea level. It was here Edward Bok brought together the Olmsted Brothers firm, architect Milton B. Medary Jr., sculptor Lee Lawrie, and the Enfield Pottery & Tile Works to craft Florida’s Taj Mahal.|
|Designed by architect Milton B. Medary Jr. (1874-1929), the tower was built from pink Etowah and gray Creole marble from a Georgia quarry with structural steel reinforcement and trimmed with coquina. Notable sculptor Lee Lawrie, known for his Atlas figure at Rockefeller Center, engaged 14 stone carvers to complete the detailed work.|
|Carved stone panels depicting herons and flamingos were installed to enhance the “singing tower’s” acoustics.|
|The top of the tower is finished with polychrome work from Enfield Pottery & Tile Works.|
Day and Night in Celebration
|Located across from the Philip Johnson-designed Town Hall, the Celebration Preview Center is now a Bank of America branch, designed by Texas architects Moore/Andersson Associates.||Celebration’s private courtyards are noted by private gates, no less.|
|The Mansions at Celebration|
|Celebration Row Houses|
|Team Disney’s Imagineers|
Reconstructed Habitats at Green Cay & Wakodahatchee Wetlands, Palm Beach County
|Amidst Palm Beach County’s planned unit developments, engineers have recreated several hundred acres of the Everglades ecosystem with elevated boardwalks winding through marsh habitats, tree islands and cypress hammocks. Interpretive signage promises more than 100 species of water fowl, diving birds, redwinged blackbirds and least bitterns. Green Cay Wetlands is a showcase for “86 different species of trees, shrubs, grasses and aquatic vegetation” incorporated into artificial habitats. One nature center was named Wakohadatchee, meaning “created waters.”|
|For further information on these Florida Landscapes:
Archbold Biological Station
PO Box 2057, Lake Placid, FL 33862
Bok Tower Gardens
1151 Tower Blvd., Lake Wales, FL 33853
Town of Celebration
Reconstructed Wetlands of Palm Beach County
|Photographs by Augustus Mayhew.|