Springtime at Stan Hywet
By Donna Spiegler
Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens opens April 1 for the 2022 season and it’s a great time to visit this historic estate in Akron Ohio, completed in 1915 for the family of F.A. Seiberling (co-founder of the Goodyear Tire Company) and his wife, Gertrude. By late April, depending on how quickly spring and warmer temps arrive, daffodils and tulips are pushing up through the soil, the beginning of a cascade of garden color in the historic gardens that lasts well into October.
Visit and enjoy a tour of the manor house and a walk through the gardens, including the English Garden, the Great Garden, the London Plane Tree Allée, the Birch Tree Allée, the Japanese Garden, West Terrace and the Lagoon.
All gardens have been restored to the original design intent of landscape architect Warren Manning. The Seiberlings hired Manning in 1911 to design the grounds and gardens around the manor house designed by Charles Schneider.
Considered one of the premier landscape architects of the early 20th century, Manning transformed the once abandoned farmland, woodland, and sandstone quarry into the beautiful estate that guests enjoy today.
A distinguishing feature of the Stan Hywet landscape are the two allées or promenades on opposite sides of the manor house. The London Plane Tree Allée extends 645 feet from the South Terrace to the end of the property, and is planted with London Plane (sycamore) trees, rhododendrons, azaleas and groundcover.
Extending north from the Manor House is the Birch Tree Allée, a 550-foot promenade of gray birch trees planted with lily-of-the-valley, creating a corridor with dappled sunlight and linking the Manor House to the Tea Houses.
The tea houses provide guests a place to relax, and also offer a great view of the Lagoon area of the property. These garden pavilions are also a popular site for weddings, with the Birch Tree Allée serving as the wedding aisle.
One of Gertrude Seiberling’s favorite gardens, the English Garden is a formal enclosed sunken garden. This garden has two entrances, and the main entrance is inspired by English churchyard gates.
Redesigned in 1928 by landscape architect Ellen Biddle Shipman, the garden features a wide variety of perennials, decorative paving, sculptures, a garden building and pools, all standard features in her garden design. The English Garden is one of only two fully-restored gardens designed by Shipman that are open to the public.
The Lagoon is the last outdoor garden space to be restored (in 2020) according to the original design of Manning. Located on the site of an old stone quarry, it is comprised of a series of five manmade ponds, fed by two small reservoirs to the northwest. Dredged of 100 years of organic matter, and with a modern pumping system installed, the Lagoon now has a healthier ecosystem and is a tranquil place for guests to walk and enjoy nature.
With this modern pumping system, water from the Lagoon cycles through the nearby Japanese Garden. Manning collaborated with Japanese landscape architect T.R. Otsuka on the design of this garden, a miniature landscape of the Japanese countryside with a waterfall and representation of Mt. Fuji fabricated out of cement. Water from the waterfall flows through the Japanese Garden and winds through a wooded section of trails before ending up back in the Lagoon.
Behind the manor house, the multi-level West Terrace features a reflecting pool and an overlook with a vista of the Cuyahoga Valley. One of the most remarkable and intentional features of this vista is that it can be seen from the lawn in front of the house when all the manor house doors are open, a reminder to visitors that the house and landscape have been designed to feel completely integrated.
The Great Garden was originally designed as a service and kitchen garden; with rectangular beds of vegetables, fruit trees and berry brambles; as well as a cutting garden to grow fresh flowers for arrangements in the manor house. Still used for fresh flowers for floral arrangements, the Great Garden starts to “pop” with colorful blooms in late spring. By June, the perennials are in full bloom, and birds and butterflies have found their way back to the lush garden.
It’s easy to spend an entire day touring Stan Hywet’s garden and grounds. If time permits, other gardens to tour are the Rose Garden, the Dell, the Perennial Garden and the Corbin Conservatory, an indoor tropical garden.
From April to December, Stan Hywet offers self-guided tours of the manor house and grounds, and masks are required in all indoor spaces. The most up-to-date information on ticket prices, as well as the availability of guided tours and Covid-19 protocols, may be found at stanhywet.org.
Springtime at Stan Hywet