Bushnell, FL - Events of Wednesday, February 27, 2013
When we went to see Bok Tower Gardens, we purchased combo tickets to also see Pinewood Estates. While the tower and gardens were built by Edward Bok in the 1920s, Pinewood was a separate estate that was completed in 1932 by Charles Austin Buck, who was a Bethlehem Steel vice president. Pinewood was the home of two subsequent owners before it was purchased in the 1960s by the foundation that operates Bok Tower Gardens. When Paul visited Bok Tower in 1957 while vacationing with his parents, Pinewood was still privately owned and was still being used as a residence, so seeing Pinewood was a first for both of us.
Pinewood, which is a 20-room, Mediterranean-style mansion, was originally called El Retiro meaning "the retreat" in Spanish. It was renamed Pinewood when it was purchased by Bok Tower Gardens because of all the long leaf pines and cypress trees that grow on the property. Pinewood was opened to the public for tours in the 1980s.
The tour at Pinewood is self-guided, although there are well-informed docents in just about every room who give a short presentation on that room and are available to answer questions.
Charles Austin Buck's youngest daughter, Lucy, used to head to Florida a couple of weeks before her father to ready the house for his arrival. She also stayed to act as hostess for his frequent entertaining since Buck was a widower. Buck's staff of 7 to 9 servants from his home in Pennsylvania also went to Florida each winter with him. He only spent 6 weeks or so at El Retiro each year, and he hired the manager of the upscale community of Mountain Lake Estates to live in the house and care for it for the rest of the time.
From the entry hall, the tour heads to the butler's pantry. It, along with the kitchen, were important hubs of activity because of all the entertaining that was done.
The floors in the butler's pantry and kitchen are linoleum because they were work areas. The floors in the rest of the house are Spanish tiles, except for the music room and Mr. Buck's office which are wood. The floor tiles are all the same color of dark terra cotta orange-red, but the tile in each room has a different shape and layout pattern.
There is no living room per se, but there were several smaller seating areas including the one called the loggia shown in the photo below. Loggia is an Italian word meaning a gallery. It is more or less an enclosed passageway or porch making it an early version of the Florida room. There are large doors on both sides that could be opened for cross ventilation in warm weather and a fireplace for when it was cool. This fireplace and one other in the house are concrete, but they are so finely done, they look like carved stone.
There was another seating area off the music room. The music room had a wooden floor for better acoustics and for dancing. The music room was for large gatherings, which were frequent at El Retiro.
The gardens at Pinewood, although much less extensive than Bok Tower Gardens, were also designed by the Frederick Olmsted, Jr. After touring the house, we walked around the garden starting with the courtyard that is outside the loggia.
We loved the flower bed at the southern end of the house with its contrast of colors and textures.
Behind the house is an expansive lawn stretching toward the west.
Also on the western side of the house is the Moon Gate. There was a pond and fountain on the other side of the gate and the brick wall behind the fountain had an interesting pattern of moving shadows from palm fronds waving in the breeze.
It was almost 2:30 when we finished up the tour of Bok Tower and Pinewood and made our way back down the path to the car. We knew it would be a long day, so we checked out places to stop and eat ahead of time. We found Cherry Pocket Steak & Seafood mentioned on the Bok Tower Gardens website. The restaurant is located at an old fish camp on Lake Pierce north of Lake Wales. Since it was close to Bok Tower and not too far out of our way back to the motor home, we decided to give it a try. There was a nicely-restored 1950 Ford Coupe parked outside. The red, 1970s MGB roadster wasn't too bad either.
Folklore has it that two men, one of whom had the last name of Cherry, discovered the area along the lake in the 1940s. From the way the land was situated, they thought it looked like a pocket. Hence the name Cherry Pocket.
The restaurant is quite rustic, but they have tongue-in-cheek signs all around like the one in the photo above that says "Cherry Pocket Fishing Resort." The sign on the left by the entrance to the bar says "Kountry Club," and there is a sign by the boat launch that says "Cherry Pocket Yacht Club."
The small inlet outside the restaurant is lined with boat docks on one side and there is a boat house on the other. Off in the distance in the next photo, there are several floatplanes docked. Both sides of the inlet are also lined with rental cabins, old mobile homes and permanently-parked travel trailers from the 1950s and 1960s, so it still retains that old fish camp character.
Burgers and sandwiches at Cherry Pocket range in price from about $7.50 to $9 and include fries, slaw, a hush puppy and a pickle spear. Dinners are also available for around $8 to $20. We both opted for a fried grouper sandwich for $9.
The grouper was delish! It was moist and flaky on the inside and nice and crunchy on the outside. The slaw was so-so, and we would have preferred the fries to be a little crisper, but the grouper more than made up for the sub-par sides.
Since it was late in the afternoon, traffic on the way back to the motor home was heavy because the road skirts past the southwestern suburbs of Orlando and it goes right through Clermont. There are lots of traffic signals, and it seemed like most of them were red. There was also construction in Clermont and paving with alternating one-lane traffic on the county road northwest of Clermont. It took us an extra half hour to get back.
We took it easy for the rest of the week and most of the weekend, but we had another outing scheduled for the following week. We'll tell you all about it in our next post.