Reliving America's Golden Days at Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens10 June 2013
America's history is so distinct. No other country was founded quite like ours. In present day that gives us so many unique things to celebrate about our nation but that also means our history missed out on certain things. For example, we have no royal families. We have no castles. These are things we can only dream about or go abroad to experience. It's no wonder shows like Downton Abbey and Game of Thrones are so popular in America- we're obsessed with this narrative that can never be ours.
However, there are some places where you can feel that regalness right here on American soil and experience the fairy tale lives of America's "royalty". Homes such as Stan Hywet will have you dreaming of another era and America's golden days.
This Tudor revival style home was built by the Seiberling family who are famous for creating Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company and turning Akron, Ohio into the "Rubber Capital of the World". F.A. Seiberling's work during the early 1900's enriched the entire Akron area and sent the city into a golden age of industrialization. As evidenced by the homes around Stan Hywet, many families reaped the benefits of working in the rubber industry.
There are many different tour options you can choose from but I chose the basic self guided tour since the other ones were a little expensive in my opinion. Once I started going through the house, however, I realized how amazing a guided tour would have been. There are easily over 50 rooms and there is so much rich detail in each one but if you look closely you can find some gems, like this one I shared on my Twitter.
Going through the rooms you get glimpses of what the lives of the Seiberlings were like: the large music hall was used for celebrations and weddings and was the stage for visits from celebrities such as Shirley Temple, each bedroom includes the original furnishes and shows the personality of the seven children, and the billiard room and office show the space where F.A. Seiberling worked and discussed business deals with clients. You also get a sense of just how wealthy they were. Indoor pool, several rooms solely for entertaining guests, and a room just for arranging flowers. In addition, you'll be extremely jealous of the master suite which encompasses nearly an entire wing of the house and includes a bathroom AND a walk-in closet AND a dressing room just for the Mrs.
Equally stunning are the grounds surrounding the home. Across the property there is a network of paths that lead you from one space to the next after leaving the manor. The first garden you will come across is the English garden which was created specifically by Mrs. Seiberling's request. The high, stone walls surround the symmetrical layout which has a black reflecting pool in the center and water fountain at the end to mimic a traditional English garden. Next is the Japanese garden which made me laugh a bit. As someone who has studied Japanese art and gardens it's quite obvious that this garden is just a Western interpretation of what a Japanese garden should look like. While the red maples are beautiful, the arrangement of this garden was much too contrived for my taste.
After that take a stroll through some of the recreational spaces of the grounds. Cross the lawn where the family used to do archery and play croquet or bowling, pass the tennis court, and come to the lagoon. This network of small ponds is where the family would enjoy swimming and canoeing in the summer and ice skating in the winter. Next is the Great Garden which is not only beautiful but practical. Here is where the crops for the home were grown and where you'll find the absolute most beautiful rose garden. In all this garden covers 3 acres.
But with every boom there is a decline. The Seiberlings' wealth was short lived and in the 1950's the family donated the home to the city to be preserved. The estate is now enjoyed by thousands of tourists every year and the historical foundation strives to maintain the integrity of the home. If you're interested in visiting Stan Hywet, their website hosts all the information you may need, including a schedule of events.
I think what I love most about Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens is what it represents. In the ornate details and furnishings of the home is a delineation of the American dream. We may not have palaces and castles but this mansion shows the entrepreneurial spirit of Americans. The Seiberling family worked and created this all on their own which to me is the portrait of America's golden days.
What's you favorite landmark of American history?