Driving home from Kirtland last Monday, we stopped at a pioneer Greek Revival farmhouse considered to be the oldest stone house in Lake County, Ohio. It’s also home to the national headquarters of the Herb Society of America.
The house is located on Kirtland-Chardon Road, near Holden Arboretum, a 3,600-acre attraction featuring display gardens, horticultural collections and nature trails. In its surrounding gardens, visitors can see examples of how to landscape with herbs.
As we looked around the building’s cozy interior, Katrinka Morgan, the society’s executive director, shared its interesting history.
In 1841, Henry Early, a Lake County farmer, chose to build a home across the road from Pierson’s Knob, the second highest point in Lake County. He built the simple rectangular building of sandstone that was quarried nearby, from the same quarry that provided the stone for the Kirtland Temple. Doric columns made from single slabs of six-foot-long stone frame the doorway.
Mrs. Morgan also mentioned that Jobe Harris, brother of Latter-day Saint Prophet Preserved Harris, also lived in the home.
In the early 1900s, the home was purchased by Benjamin Hubbell, Sr., an architect who designed the Cleveland Museum of Art and the West Side Market. Hubbell added a master bedroom with a barrel-vaulted ceiling. He also created a back porch, incorporating two carved-stone pieces of a lobster and a cornucopia of vegetables — both from the West Side Market — on the upper corners of the porch’s fireplace. After planting 30 acres of grapes on the property, Hubbell renamed the home “Vineyard House.” His prize-winning racehorses lived in a stable that is no longer standing on the property.
In 1988, the Herb Society of America purchased the house from the Holden Arboretum and relocated its headquarters from Boston to Kirtland. Founded in 1933 by six Boston women who studied botany and horticulture with Dr. Edgar Anderson of the Arnold Arboretum at Harvard University and wanted to continue to study and research herbs, the Society educates the public about cultivating herbs and studying their history and uses. Taking its motto from John Parkinson’s herbal, the Society promotes “Herbs for Use and For Delight” by fostering plant collections, investigating promising herb plants, and supporting an intern at the National Herb Garden in Washington, D.C.
One side of the building houses a 3,000-volume library on topics related to herbs and gardening. The collection covers subjects such as aromatherapy, Biblical herbs, botanists, children’s gardening, culinary herbs, Early American gardening, edible plants, herbal crafts and medicinal plants. Some antiquarian herb-related books are on display in the library, but rarer books in its collection are housed in Holden Arboretum’s library.
The Herb Society of America Library provides resource lists for plants in the Bible, herb cuisine, herbal beverages, herbal business resources, how Native Americans used herbs and other topics. Library staff prepare HerbWire, a monthly information bulletin for society members on finding herbal information, as well as review of herb-related information resources.
On the other side of the building, we browsed a nice selection of herb-related gifts. At Mrs. Morgan’s invitation, we gladly took home some back issues of The Herbarist, an annual journal that includes articles on knot gardens, herbs in Greek mythology, tisanes and other current topics related to herbs.
The Herb Society of America also educates the public about herbs with some helpful books. Its New Encyclopedia of Herbs & Their Uses, by Deni Bown and published by Dorling Kindersley in 2001, is a guide to identifying, cultivating and using herbs. It includes detailed botanical descriptions of over 1,000 herbs, is illustrated with 1,500 photographs and includes garden designs and planting plans.
The Herb Society of America’s Essential Guide to Growing and Cooking with Herbs, edited by Katherine K. Schlosser, looks like another good resource. If you’re a fan of Tasha Tudor’s artwork like me, track down A Basket of Herbs: A Book of American Sentiments, edited by Mary Mason Campbell, illustrated by Tasha Tudor and presented by the Society’s New England Unit.
Mrs. Morgan and the building in which she works made our last stop in Lake County a delightful surprise. The next time I visit Lake County, I’m planning to stop at the Finnish Heritage Museum and Finnish Treasures Gift Shop in Fairport Harbor, the Irish Crossroads Gift Shop in Wickliffe and the Remember When Tea Room, a tea room and gift shop in Kirtland that sells dollhouse miniatures.