Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Stan Hywet Hall - An English Country Retreat

Tucked away on 70 acres in the midst of the hustling bustling metropolitan city of Akron stands an English Tudor, a country mansion built during the reign of industrial millionaires, that stands strong, stalwart, and unfettered by the expansive growth and change that most cities undergo.

This oasis of olden-day country charm is called Stan Hywet Hall.  It was built by Frank Augustus Seiberling, the humanitarian and inventor who built his fortune in the rubber industry by co-founding The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company which became, and still is, America's largest tire manufacturer. 

The Great Hall
Frank Seiberling came from a family of entrepreneurs. After attending college he joined his father's farm machinery manufacturing business and invented a twin binder for grain. During the panic of the 1890s however, many businesses failed, his father's no exception. Seiberling, nearly forty years of age and with a wife and three children to support, suddenly found himself jobless in 1898. He heard tell of an old strawboard factory in East Akron, and with his savings ( and a loan from his brother-in-law ) purchased the property. In a few days time he decided what business he wanted to pursue, picked out a name, and began selling stock. Rubber. This was the business he chose and he decided to name it after the inventor of vulcanization, Charles Goodyear. 

Seiberling had a determination to succeed and turned a small business in a glowing success, even in the down economy. He quickly earned the title of "the little Napoleon" for his small stature and steadfast will to succeed. Automobiles were a growing phenomenon and were soon becoming a necessity for upper-class families. Cleveland was one of the great auto-making cities in the nation and with every car built they needed more and more rubber. In less than ten years time he turned The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company into America's largest maker of rubber tires and Akron was transformed from a small town to the "rubber capital of the world". 

During the hey-dey of Cleveland's growth many industrial millionaires built "country retreats"...mansions of such grandeur that people gazed in wonder of their extravagant size. Most of these structures were built in the middle of Cleveland in such fashionable communities as Bratenahl and Euclid Avenue. Sieberling however, did not stem from Cleveland and so wished to have his country retreat built in the city he made his home, Akron. 

The Dining Room

In 1907 he began to purchase farmland and cornfields and lay the groundwork of planning for his great estate. Architect Charles S. Schneider was selected among many other architects in a competition. Along with the Seiberlings he traveled to England, where in the countryside of Devon they got inspiration for the grand tudor. 

Construction, c. 1913

After five years of planning of every kind  ( 3,000 separate blueprints were drawn up to detail all the architectural features ) the groundbreaking began. At a cost of $150,000 Seiberling's English Tudor Revival manor was being built. Sandstone from local quarries was brought in, furniture obtained from New York and all over England was being selected, the landscape of the property was undergoing a transformation and servants were being hired for the soon-to-be-built residence. Upon completion it became one of the finest examples of a Tudor Revival house in America and evoked the appearance of a manor having been standing for generations. Stan Hywet Hall derives its name from the old English for "stone hewn" and features 65 rooms in all: 18 bedrooms, 23 bathrooms, a billiard room, music room,gymnasium, bowling alley, indoor swimming pool, 23 fireplaces, and most special of all...a splendid country garden. 

The Music Room

Warren H. Manning, a Boston landscape architect designed the original grounds. Later, in 1929, famed designer Ellen Biddle Shipman created a special English garden, which remains today fully restored to her original design. It is the only one of Shipman's gardens open to the public. 

The Library
Stan Hywet Hall was intended for use. It was never meant to be a showplace but rather a gathering place. The motto of the manor "Non Nobis Solum" - Not For Us Alone - was carved above the entrance door so even visitors knew they were welcome and could make Stan Hywet their home. And visitors came! Helen Keller, Thomas Edison, Will Rogers, and presidents Calvin Coolidge, William Howard Taft, and Warren G. Harding were among some of the illustrious guests who stayed beneath the roof of Stan Hywet. 

The Seiberlings had a large extended family which visited often and since Frank was very much involved in humanitarian causes, they often hosted events of one kind or another. One of the most famous events that took place at Stan Hywet hall was the Shakespeare Ball. This was the grand opening gala after the construction of the manor and it featured hundreds of guests bedecked in Elizabethan dress to celebrate the 300th anniversary of noted bard's death. Today, an annual Shakespeare Festival still takes place at Stan Hywet in honor of this occasion. 

Although the original construction cost of Stan Hywet was estimated at $150,000 the total cost amounted to nearly $750,000 after all the "extras" that were added to the estate; these included several gardens, swimming pools, a tennis court, a basketball court, a golf course, a pond, and a gate lodge And a very quaint gate lodge at that. 

The Gate Lodge

The three-bedroom structure was originally built as a gatekeeper's house and was used for that purpose up until the mid-1930s when Frank Seiberling's eldest son Fred took it up as his residence along with his family, which included his wife Henrietta and their three children. 

F.A.Seiberling with his four grandchildren

This humble home soon after became the birthplace of a very powerful movement. Henrietta Seiberling was a very devout religious woman and strongly believed that a one person can do a power of good. On Mother's Day, 1935, Henrietta brought together Mr. Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith, admitted alcoholics, and during an afternoon's discussion in the Gate Lodge they discussed and identified the points that came to be the cornerstone principles of Alcoholics Anonymous. 

" Welcome, as they need may be, find here Gladness, Happiness, Peace - Sanctuary "

John F.Seiberling Jr., one of Frank's grandsons, became a U.S State Representitive and a great conservationist in his adulthood. It was through his efforts that Ohio's first national park was established - Cuyahoga National Park. One does not wonder where he inheritated his great love of beauty and nature. 

The most beautiful aspect of Stan Hywet is actually not the manor itself, but rather it's splendid gardens. Looking out from the back of Stan Hywet one can see the Breakfast Room garden and London Plane Tree Alley where symmetrically lined plane trees border a wide pavilion of open lawn that leads to the Dell, a shady woodland garden scattered with daffodils and wildflowers. Connecting the house to the landscaped grounds is a flagged stone pathway, bordered with tall grass and lilies of the valley and beyond this, past a stone tool shed entrance, the English sunken walled garden, Mrs. Seiberling's favorite garden refuge. The Fountain of the Water Goddess presides over it, always making sure the flowers have plenty of water to drink from. 

Stan Hywet's 70 acres also include the Great Garden, a grape arbor, lagoon, meadow, Japanese garden with resplendent ornamental maples, and a greenhouse, where vegetables and fruits were grown for the supper table. 

Built as a country home, Stan Hywet has now become a landmark, not only in Akron but across America as one of many manors apart of the National Registry of Historic Homes. Walking beneath its portals you enter the world of the past...not only into the 20th century, but you obtain a glimpse of life in the middle ages as well. It is a sanctuary open to the public to enjoy and relish. 

Stan Hywet Hall is located at 714 North Portage Path, Akron, Ohio. 
Hours of Operation : April 2- December 30. Tuesday through Sunday, 10am-6pm.