On the way back to Michigan my parents and I stopped in Akron, Ohio, and visited Stan Hywet Hall, the historic estate of F.A. Seiberling, the founder of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. The property features elaborate landscaping by famous early 20th-century American landscape architects Warren Manning and Ellen Biddle Shipman, and I had wanted to see it for a number of years now. We arrived right at 10:00am last Sunday morning just as the grounds were opening and our visit started out with a happy surprise as we were informed that Sundays at Stan Hywet are "Woof Walk Sundays", which means that for a $5 admission charge, dogs are allowed on the grounds. My parents recently adopted an adorable two-year old long-haired dachshund named Willy and since dogs are not allowed in so many public places in this country - in Germany, by contrast, they are allowed even in restaurants - we were expecting that one of us would have to stay outside and take a walk with him while the other two toured the estate. Instead, we could take him along and all of us, including him, got to enjoy the beautiful estate.
Willy, the newest addition to our family
Once inside, the first part of the gardens we toured was the Great Garden, a large space that runs from one end of the house to a long grape arbor and the Corbin Conservatory at the edge of the gardens. During the Seiberlings' time this part of the garden was apparently occupied by a large kitchen and cut flower garden, as well as a formal rose garden in the corner closest to the house. The rose garden is still there and there are also still beds of cut flowers, but most of the Great Garden is now taken up by extensive rectangular beds of herbaceous perennials, divided by wide paths of lawn and punctuated with apple trees.
One of the paths in the Great Garden
A beautiful specimen of false blue indigo (Baptisia australis)
A bright red cultivar of herbaceous peony (Paeonia lactiflora)
Beautiful pale yellow lupines ( Lupinus sp.)
A peach-colored bearded iris (Iris germanica)
The grape arbor at the far end of the Great Garden
On the north side of the Great Garden one encounters what is arguably Stan Hywet's most famous unique feature, the 550-foot (ca. 168 m) long Birch Allée, a beautiful tunnel of leaning, multi-stemmed paper birches (Betula papyrifera) that runs from a side door of the house to a little terrace and look-out graced by two small tea houses. Below this sits the landscaped Lagoon nestled in the former quarry that gave the estate its name, Stan Hywet meaning "stone quarry" in Old English.
View along the Birch Allée towards the house
Having followed the Birch Allée back towards the house, we next passed the Bowling Lawn and then reached the West Terrace at the back of the house. This is a very formal space, covered in flat panels of lawn and centered around a stone-edged pool with fountains.
The West Terrace
Below the West Terrace sits the recently-renovated Japanese Garden. It is hardly authentic - more Victorian fantasy of what a Japanese garden might look like than actual recognizable Japanese style - and yet it is quirky and interesting in its own right.
View towards one end of the Japanese Garden
The other end
Rhododendrons flowering at the edge of the Japanese Garden
At the other end of the West Terrace the walled English Garden is all but hidden away behind various trees and shrubs. This is the part of the estate that was redesigned in 1929 by Ellen Biddle Shipman, who was one of the most succesful landscape architects of the time and particularly well known for her flower garden designs. The secluded space features a central reflecting pool and a sculpture by Willard D. Paddock known as The Garden of the Water Goddess. These are surrounded by yew and box hedging and beds filled with flowering shrubs and herbaceous perennials. There are also butterfly bush standards (Buddleja davidii) and espaliered pears and climbing roses trained against the inside of the garden walls. Apparently this is the only fully restored Shipman garden open to the public but unfortunately it as the surrounding wood has grown up, appears to have become a bit to shady and wet for many of the plants that are part of the design, with the result that many are not quite as vigorous and lush as they could be. Nonetheless, it is a charming space.
The sculpture The Garden of the Water Goddess; note the flowering laburnum (Laburnum x watereri) in the background
View across the central reflecting pool towards the sculpture
A single cultivar of tree peony (Paeonia suffruticosa)
View across the middle of the English Garden towards its gate house
After the English Garden we reached the other end of the house where an allée of London plane (Platanus x acerifolia) underplanted with rhododendrons mirrors the Birch Allée on the other side of the house. Unfortunately this allée had to be completely replanted in recent years, and as a result at the moment it does not look like much more than a few awkwardly rigid rows of young trees and small rhododendrons. However, old pictures show that the effect was quite beautiful when the old plane trees were fully grown and the original rhododendrons formed a continuous, towering shrubbery beneath them. Hopefully in a few years' time that look will be regained.
The newly replanted allée of London plane trees and rhododendrons
We then rounded the corner of the house and reached the Great Meadow and Elliptical Garden which stretch out in front of it. These consist largely of vast expanses of lawn with groves of trees and hedges strategically placed at their perimeters to frame views of the house.
View of the house from the front
A map of the estate
The Elliptical Garden
Stan Hywet Hall is open to visitors April to December from Tuesday through Sunday, from 10:00am to 4:30pm. Admission is $10 for just the grounds and $14 for the grounds and manor house. "Woof Walk Sundays" runs through October 29 and includes all Sundays except June 19 and October 2. If you want to find out more, you can visit Stan Hywet Hall's website here.