The Columbus Museum of Art membership card that recently found a home in my wallet has become as vital as its neighboring driver’s license and credit card. Affording reciprocal membership privileges to more than 1,000 museums in North America, it has already taken several trips around Ohio, paying for itself in the first month alone.
Recently, it prompted a decade-overdue return to Stan Hywet, the former Akron home of F.A. Seiberling, co-founder of The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company; his wife, Gertrude; and their family. My card provided for a self-guided tour option, perfect for a leisurely exploration of the Tudor Revival home, gardens and grounds. It was delightful! And such perfect timing!
September means apples, and there they were, lusciously ripe on the trees flanking either side of the curving entrance drive as it passed the half-timbered gate lodge — once the home of the estate’s superintendent, and where Alcoholics Anonymous was founded — then proceeded to the front door of the Seiberlings’ home, lovely views unfolding as it progressed. The Seiberlings retained the property’s original apple orchard to give it rural beauty and character. New versions of heirloom apple varieties were selected, such as Baldwin, Grimes Golden, Rhode Island Greening, Northern Spy and Fameuse.
Appreciating the Picturesque views on which landscape Warren Manning had capitalized when designing the estate, I arrived at the manor house. In through the front door I stepped, and out came my camera.
Since my last visit, I had learned that Samuel Yellin had created extraordinary hand-wrought ironwork for the home’s entrance gates.They merited a closer look:Exquisite! Look at the handle!He also created door handles, hinges, latches, locks, andirons and radiator covers in the home each one magnificent and different from the rest. At last, now I could see for myself, and thoroughly document them too. Here’s the front door knob:
The breakfast room looks out onto its own garden of flowers reflecting those same colors. Consulting the Garden Plant Guide readily available at different locations throughout the estate, I admired the painterly planting of Floss Flower “Blue Danube,” Snapdragon “Floral Showers Yellow” and “Rocket Gold,” Cyperus “Baby Tut,” Mealycup Sage “Saga Blue,” Salvia “Black and Blue,” Dusty Miller “Silverado,” and Zinnia “Magellan Yellow.”
Next stop: the English Garden, inspired by Frances Hodgson Burnett’s popular book of the day, The Secret Garden.
Hidden from view by evergreens and shrubs, the Arts and Crafts-style garden filled with old-fashioned orange-and-maroon-hued plants was Mrs. Seiberling’s private refuge. In 1928, she asked landscape architect Ellen Biddle Shipman to redesign the walled garden so that it resembled an English cottage garden of blue, white, pink and yellow flowers. Shipman retained the original walls, paths, niches, geometric flower beds, fountain, and “The Garden of the Water Goddess” statue. She framed the reflecting pool with a yew hedge and lilies. Replacing the plantings with over 3,300 perennials, peonies, wisteria, climbing roses and flowering dogwood and crabapple trees, she specified that only pale-hued blooms be used. Restored in 1991, the garden is the only fully restored Shipman garden open to the public.
Crossing the west terrace leads to a 550-foot long allée of 100 birch trees extending from the manor house to two stone garden pavilions or tea houses. This lookout provides a scenic view of the Cuyahoga Valley over the lagoons that were the stone quarries for which the estate is named (Stan Hywet means “stone quarry” in Old English).
Walking through the three-acre Great Garden, a cutting garden supplying floral arrangements for the manor house, my last stop was the conservatory, a replica of the original greenhouse, where a beautiful pink powder puff tree was in bloom.
For more on Stan Hywet and its gardens, read Green Byways: Garden Discoveries in the Great Lakes States, by Sharon Lappin Lumsde; Not For Us Alone, by Marlene Ginaven; The Gardens of Ellen Biddle Shipman, by Judith B. Tankard; Warren H. Manning: Landscape Architect and Environmental Planner, edited by Robin Karson, Jane Roy Brown, and Sarah Allaback; and A Genius for Place: American Landscapes of the Country Place Era, by Robin Karson.