Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens: A National Historic Landmark and Timeless Treasure in Akron, Ohio
Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens: A Historic House Museum in Akron, Ohio
Nestled within the heart of Akron, Ohio, you’ll find Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens, a sprawling 70-acre historic house museum, exuding history and charm from every corner. It’s more than just a museum; it’s a journey into the past, a beautiful homage to a bygone era.
A Colorful Display of Flora
This incredible estate, filled with history and elegance, is home to many enchanting features. The meticulously cultivated gardens offer a colorful display, boasting an array of stunning flora that changes with the seasons, a testament to the art of gardening. The delicate fragrance of blooming flowers and the melodious chirping of birds fill the air, creating a serene ambiance.
Adjacent to the gardens stands the Victorian-era greenhouse. Amidst the warmth and humidity, it nurtures a variety of exotic plants, their lush foliage painting a vibrant green against the backdrop of the glass structure.
The Carriage House
The carriage house is another jewel in the estate’s crown. Once used for stabling horses, it still stands with preserved architecture and an antiquated charm. It whispers tales of the time when horses were the primary mode of transportation, offering a small glimpse into the past.
Intricate Details of American Architecture
At the heart of this estate, the main mansion stands tall and proud. One of the largest houses in the United States, it is a masterpiece of American architecture. Its grandeur is not just in its size, but in the intricate details that adorn each room. From the elaborate woodwork to the ornate chandeliers, each element reflects the refined taste and the affluence of the era.
The Legacy of F. A. Seiberling
Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens is not just a National Historic Landmark; it’s a symbol of national significance. It served as the home to F. A. Seiberling, the visionary co-founder of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. Each brick, each corner of this estate is steeped in history, echoing the story of a man who shaped the face of the American rubber industry. This grand estate is a testament to his legacy, and a monument to his accomplishments, making it not just a place to visit, but an experience altogether.
Designing Stan Hywet
Between the years of 1912 and 1915, an architectural masterpiece took shape, designed specifically for F. A. Seiberling and his beloved wife, Gertrude Ferguson Penfield Seiberling. They christened this majestic abode Stan Hywet, an Old English phrase symbolizing “stone quarry” or “stone hewn,” drawing inspiration from the estate’s past use and the abandoned stone quarries that lay dormant within the grounds of the Averill Dairy estate.
The Seiberlings, with a grand vision for their dream estate, engaged the expertise of three renowned professionals. They entrusted the lush landscape to Boston’s well known designer Warren Manning, appointed the artistic talents of New York City’s interior designer Hugo Huber, and sought the architectural wisdom of Cleveland’s Charles Sumner Schneider. Schneider, originally employed by the prestigious New York City architectural firm George Post & Sons, presented his design pitch while still under their employment. However, in 1913, he parted ways with the firm, yet maintained his authoritative role and creative supervision over this magnificent project.
In the spring of April 1912, the Seiberlings embarked on a voyage to England. Along with their eldest daughter Irene and Schneider, they toured the grandeur of nearly 20 manor homes, seeking inspiration for their own American country estate. Three distinctive English country homes – Compton Wynyates, Ockwells Manor, and Haddon Hall – left quite an impression on them, which would eventually shape the aesthetic of Stan Hywet.
The Manor House, a wonderful example of early 20th-century architecture, spans an impressive 64,500 square feet. This sprawling structure encompasses four floors and a basement. As they dreamt of their home, the Seiberlings ensured that each family member’s preferences were heard and incorporated. Gertrude envisioned a spacious music room, while the boys yearned for an indoor swimming pool, and F.A. desired a private office to retreat into his thoughts and work.
Spacious Rooms, Grand Dining, and Luxurious Accommodations
The house was also crafted with exquisite features like a grand formal dining room, capable of hosting up to 40 guests for feasts. For the comfort of their guests, the mansion accommodated five luxurious guest bedrooms, each complete with adjoining full bathrooms and spacious walk-in closets. The house also provided accommodations for eight live-in servants. In every detail, Stan Hywet embodied the Seiberlings’ vision and desire for a home that was as grand as it was welcoming. The family truly loved to welcome guests and share the comforts of their home with friends.
Interior Design by Hugo Huber
Hugo Huber worked in close partnership with Gertrude Seiberling for the interior design of the home. Together, they embarked on numerous shopping expeditions to the bustling metropolis of New York City, hunting for unique and tasteful pieces that would complement their home.
The quest for the perfect antique pieces also led Huber, alongside F.A. and Gertrude, across the Atlantic to England in the blistering cold of January in 1915. They sought inspiration from the rich history and the classical charm of English antiquities to breathe life into their estate.
Gertrude had a keen desire to outfit the entire home with period-appropriate Tudor antiques, yearning to recreate the timeless elegance of the era. However, F.A., considering the needs of their large family, insisted on the importance of comfortable furnishings that would lend a cozy feel to their stately home.
Balancing the scales between the two visions, Huber crafted a compromise. He curated a selection of genuine Tudor antiques, capturing the essence of the past. Alongside these, he incorporated contemporary 1915 furnishings, masterfully aged to appear antique. Each piece was carefully chosen, not only for its individual beauty but also for how seamlessly it blended with the overall aesthetic of the home.
In this way, Huber created an interior space that was a harmonious blend of historical elegance and modern comfort, while also catering to the comforts of a bustling family life.
Warren Manning’s Natural Design and Panoramic Views
The grounds of the estate, initially spanning a vast 1,500 acres, were carefully crafted between 1911 and 1915 by Manning. To this day, they remain just as beautiful as the day they were conceived, offering a stunning example of his nuanced understanding of natural design and meticulous craftsmanship.
Manning ingeniously situated the mansion on the edge of the quarry wall, providing a wonderful view of the Cuyahoga Valley. The vista unfolds to reveal the hills stretching into the horizon, a panorama of nature that captivates the senses.
Manning didn’t just design a landscape; he wove a living, breathing tapestry that harmoniously integrated the mansion with its surrounding environment. He constructed a series of breathtaking vistas that tied the home to the natural world, creating a singular, unified design. The entrance, meandering through an existing apple orchard, and the two allées flanking the north and south sides of the house, demonstrate Manning’s genius in using arranged plant materials to frame stunning views.
Breathtaking Vistas and Harmonious Gardens
At the rear of the house, Manning skillfully manipulated the existing woodland, clearing growth to unveil expansive views across miles of untouched countryside. This strategic design choice allowed the Seiberlings to fully appreciate the endless expanse of their property, capturing the heart of the rural landscape.
Encircling the Manor House, Manning devised a symphony of contrasting garden spaces. These included formal garden rooms, such as the English Garden, the tranquil Breakfast Room Garden, the lush Perennial Garden, the serene Japanese Garden, and the elegant West Terrace. Each was expertly nestled within the natural landscape, presenting a harmonious interplay between manicured design and untamed nature.
In his design, Manning employed a technique known as plant massing, using predominantly native plant materials. He crafted thoughtful groupings of deciduous trees, small ornamental trees, and swathes of perennial plantings, carving out vistas and gardens that added depth, movement, and definition to his design. These garden spaces were carefully tailored to the Seiberling family’s needs, envisioned as outdoor rooms for relaxation, entertainment, and family gatherings.
Eastern Aesthetic and Classical Elegance
The Japanese Garden was brought to life in 1916 by the skilled hands of Chicago’s Japanese landscape artist, T.R. Otsuka. Otsuka’s work was an addition to the overall layout crafted by Manning, adding a touch of Eastern aesthetic to this grand estate.
The English Garden, an embodiment of classical elegance, underwent a redesign in 1929 under the expert guidance of renowned landscape architect, Ellen Biddle Shipman. This beautiful retreat has weathered the test of time and undergone two significant restorations to preserve its timeless charm.
Restoring the Gardens
The first restoration, in 1984, saw the creation of a master plan aimed at faithfully reinstating Warren Manning’s original landscape vision. The second restoration, spread across a decade from 2000 to 2010, focused on meticulously reconstructing all the gardens and landscaping surrounding the stately manor house. Each historic garden has been lovingly restored, with the Lagoon area, a chain of five man made ponds, being the final garden space to be rejuvenated in 2020.
Conservatory and Greenhouses
In addition to these stunning gardens, the estate also boasts a conservatory and greenhouses, the craftsmanship of the King Construction Company of North Tonawanda, New York. This project, costing $18,330, gave birth to a rectangular Palm House adorned with a 24-foot wide greenhouse at the rear and a wing on each side.
Initially, the greenhouse space nestled behind the Palm House was partitioned into a “general plant house,” an “orchid house” to nurture the delicate blossoms, and a “vegetable house” for homegrown produce. However, the original 1915 structure faced the wrath of a wind storm in 1947, suffering considerable damage.
In a tribute to the estate’s history and its commitment to preserving its original charm, Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens constructed a new conservatory and greenhouses in 2005. This project was executed based on the original historic designs, honoring the past while breathing new life into these structures, ensuring the estate continues to flourish for generations to come.
The sprawling grounds of the estate were not merely a feast for the eyes, but also a playground for the Seiberlings and their esteemed guests. It was a space filled with recreational amenities that catered to a variety of interests, ensuring that leisure was never in short supply.
For those who enjoyed tennis, there were two well-maintained tennis courts. One was dedicated to the Seiberlings and their guests, while the other was provided for the estate’s servants.A roque court was also part of the estate’s recreational offerings, providing a venue for this strategic, lawn-based game that was popular in the early 20th century. Even equestrian enthusiasts could indulge their passion on horse trails that meandered through the estate, offering picturesque rides amidst the natural landscape. Golfers could practice their swing on a four-hole golf course, meticulously landscaped and set against the backdrop of the estate’s stunning views.
Serene Lagoons and Indoor Swimming Pool
The estate also boasted serene lagoons, providing a refreshing escape during the warmer months. These were perfect for swims or peaceful boating excursions, their calm waters reflecting the peacefulness of the surrounding landscape.
Not to be outdone by the outdoor offerings, the estate also housed an indoor swimming pool. Sheltered from the elements, it provided year-round enjoyment, its crystal-clear waters offering a small, tranquil oasis within the mansion. Additionally, a well-equipped gymnasium was part of the estate’s amenities.
The estate grounds were a symphony of leisure and recreation, offering a multitude of pursuits to the Seiberlings, their guests, and the staff that made this grand lifestyle possible.
Keeping the History of Stan Hywet Alive
In the year 1957, the six Seiberling children who had reached adulthood made a decision to donate Stan Hywet to the newly established Stan Hywet Hall Foundation; a non-profit organization conceived with the goal of preserving the estate. The estate, in all its beauty and historical significance, is now a cherished house museum. It opens its doors seasonally to the public, inviting them to step back in time and experience a slice of history. This decision resonates with the Latin inscription etched above the Manor House’s grand front door, “Non nobis solum,” a phrase that translates to “Not for us alone.”
Renewal Inside the Manor House
Between the years 2015 to 2021, the Manor House experienced quite a large renewal inside. Each room was painstakingly restored in a detailed, room-by-room process funded by the “2nd Century Campaign.” This initiative breathed new life into the manor house, ensuring its historic charm continues to captivate generations to come. There’s so much to see, it’s hard to visit Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens just once. Check out their website HERE and plan a visit!
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