Stan Hywet Hall & Garden is much more than a portal to the past
Ever wonder what life was like during the Roaring Twenties? One can get a glimpse of it by visiting Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens located in Akron, OH. Once the home of The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company co-founder, F.A. Seiberling, this historic estate and museum features a 64,500 sq. ft. Manor House and a landscape filled with eye-catching vistas and colorful gardens.
The Manor House was built between 1912 and 1915 and contains 18 bedrooms, 25 bathrooms, 23 fireplaces, and 12 chimneys. The gardens, designed by notable landscape architect, Warren Manning, are no less spectacular and highlight the estate in nine formal settings intended to be used and enjoyed by family, friends and guests from around the world.
The Seiberling family enjoyed its American Country Estate for several decades. In 1957, it became a non-profit museum. Today, the hall and gardens, restored to their near natural state, are open to the public for nine months out of the year, six days a week.
More than 40 full-time employees and upwards of 600 volunteers help maintain Stan Hywet, Old English for “stone quarry” and the property’s most prominent natural feature.
“The estate is comprised of 70 acres, 35 of which are maintained grounds,” explained Tom Hrivnak, a 21-year veteran employee. Under his supervision fall the grounds, greenhouses, maintenance department and facilities.
“One of the unique things about the estate is the attention to detail,” Hrivnak emphasized. “The Manor House features the Seiberling family’s actual personal and household items, giving visitors an authentic view of how they lived. The same holds true of the gardens. Although their original blueprints were damaged or lost over time, correspondence letters, thousands of black and white photos, and Warren Manning’s plant list have allowed them to be restored very close to the way they were in the 1920s.”
Of the nine formal gardens, he noted the English Garden, redesigned by Ellen Biddle Shipman in 1928, was one of family matriarch Gertrude Seiberling’s favorite outdoor spaces. Restored in the early 1990s, it is said to be one of the only fully restored gardens designed by Shipman that is open to the public.
“The gardens are one of the reasons we’ve used a Walker Mower for the last two decades,” added Hrivnak. “Having a good collection system is a requisite to keep clippings and other debris out of the gardens, and the Great Garden alone features 5,000 linear feet of pathway. Our choice was to either use a push mower or a compact mower like the Walker Mower to keep it maintained. That really wasn’t a choice.”
“Not to minimize the importance of the machine’s quality of cut,” said employee Tony Stopar, who is the Stan Hywet turf specialist. “The quality is beyond anything I’ve seen, thanks to its counter-rotating blades and vacuum system,” he said. “The results help to provide a great staging area for the several events and many weddings the estate hosts each year. The mower is also easy to operate, something that mowing volunteer Tom Bouton appreciates.”
“Tom is one of the many regular volunteers who works in the horticulture department,” noted Hrivnak. “He has compiled thousands of hours of volunteering over more than 18 years working in the greenhouse and using the Walker Mower. All told, we definitely couldn’t do what we do here without volunteer help.”
Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens is much more than a portal to the past. The estate is an educational and cultural resource for the community and a venue that hosts several holiday and other special events throughout the year. It has also become a popular setting for unique garden weddings.
“The events pose one of the biggest challenges for us,” explained Hrivnak. “They dictate much of Tony Stopar’s turf maintenance schedule, from mowing all the way to when and how much fertilization is applied, and which areas will need reseeding in the fall. What makes it more interesting is the primary event season occurs during the months of June, September, and October, our busiest time of year for landscape maintenance.”
He continued, “As a general rule, our Walker Mower, equipped with a 42-inch GHS deck, operates four hours a day, four days a week. Volunteer Wayne Huston spends two days a week on a Hustler wide-area mower, and a Toro push mower also gets a weekly workout in and around the gardens. A couple of attachments for the Walker Mower, including a fertilizer spreader and Hi-Dump, help save valuable time. The Hi-Dump easily drops leaves and clippings into piles to be later sucked up by a vacuum. It can also deposit them in a pickup bed, ideal for less accessible areas around the estate.”
The Deck the Hall celebration, extending from the end of November through December 30th, treats visitors to a dazzling display of more than 1 million lights, an animated light show, and much more. This special season-ending event for Stan Hywet marks the beginning of the second season for Hrvinak and his team.
“We stay very busy through most of January and February with winter pruning, tree work, and cleaning up 20 acres of woods,” he explained. “Some of our volunteers like Tom and Wayne also enjoy working in the greenhouse, readying plant material for the upcoming season or pruning trees on the estate.”
Hrivnak and Stopar emphasize one of the benefits of working at the estate from a landscape or horticultural perspective is being able to see plans come to fruition over time. That’s something tourists and groups that visit this magnificent estate annually can appreciate, as well. For more information, contact Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens at 330- 836-5533 or visit stanhywet.org.