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By Tom Paulson
City Editor 

Lake Wales Heritage to Plant New Magnolias

Trees Intended to Help Recreate "A City in a Garden" Landscapes

 

Last updated 4/14/2022 at 12:53pm



More than 40 young magnolia trees will once again grace the length of Lakeshore Boulevard's western stretch when work is completed this week on the replacement of the missing trees from the historic Olmsted landscape. The original trees, planted more than 90 years ago, were mostly lost to hurricanes over the decades.

The project is the work of Lake Wales Heritage, the local group that has dedicated itself to restoring the historic "City in a Garden" streetscapes designed by famed architect Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. at the encouragement of Edward Bok. The details of that original effort are only now coming to light.

"We are really pleased to be able to move forward with this phase of the planting," said Heritage secretary Robert Connors. "The community and residents have been very supportive of the effort." The trees are being planted on Friday at a cost of more than $11,000 in support of the beautification effort of the City of Lake Wales..

Lake Wales Heritage expects to continue the replanting program, which may prove to be a multi-decadal effort depending upon the group's ability to raise funds and grants. The magnolias represent the second stretch of street replanted following the installation of thirty blooming lemon bottlebrush trees on 4th Street last September. Those trees have been faithfully tended by volunteers led by Heritage director Preston Troutman. None have been lost.

The new trees will span from North Wales Drive to Polk Avenue, joining the 11 surviving trees from Olmsted's original work. Their large, fragrant blossoms are expected to add a new touch of grace to the boulevard.

"Some of the original trees were lost to disease, and a few actually to the acts of man," Connors said. "Olmsted's plan included a signature tree for virtually every street in the city, but most were never planted because the Great Depression intervened." Edward Bok had concealed the fact that he had paid for Olmsted's design work, afraid that every city in Florida would expect his to grant them the same service.

Olmsted played a central role in the development of Lake Wales as a garden spot, creating the plans for Mountain Lake, scores of private homes, and Bok Tower Gardens before creating the city plan. His previous work and that of his father had already helped transform hundreds of American cities, creating interconnected park systems and preserves that are cherished today, including New York's Central Park, Washington DC's Rock Creek Park, The Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, and the Niagara Reserve at the famous falls.

After Olmsted completed the streetscape design, city fathers retained his planning firm to write the growing town's first zoning ordinances, leaving Lake Wales with a unique status as the only Olmsted-designed city in Florida.

 

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