By Dave Zuchowski with photos by Bill Rockwell
A recent pilgrimage to Akron, Ohio, which once produced forty percent of the world’s rubber, introduced me to a remarkable architectural and horticultural vestige that best reflects the wealth that industry once produced.
Stan Hywet, the magnificent home and gardens of Goodyear Rubber and Tire co-founder, F.A. Seiberling, reflects the design ingenuity of three of the best minds in their field. They include house architect, Charles S. Schneider, interior designer, H. F. Huber and landscape architect, Warren Manning.
Visitors Enter Through the Former Carriage House
F.A. and his wife, Gertrude, did in fact take along to England Schneider and Huber to explore architectural styles that suited the Seiberling’s tastes. What they settled on was English Tudor Revival.
“Manning, Schneider and Huber made up the perfect design team trifecta,” said my guide on my house tour.
Construction on the manse began in 1912 on the site of a stone quarry. Note: Stan Hywet, pronounced Heewet, translates from Old English to stone quarry. Three years later, the Seiberlings threw a house warming party where the 200 invited guests were encouraged to dress in costume to compliment the soiree’s Shakespearean theme.
Looking down on the Great Hall of the Manor from the Second Floor
The guests must have been amazed by the house’s football field size (64,500 sq. ft.), its 18 bedrooms, 23 bathrooms, 3 elevators and 23 fireplaces. To complete the structure, the Seiberlings ordered 2 million red bricks and installed 21,455 panes of glass.
On my house tour, my guide pegged the total cost of the house at $500,000, the equivalent of $12 million in today’s money. The Seiberlings and their six children lived in the house for forty years, from 1915 to 1955. To keep everything maintained and operating smoothly, the family employed a domestic staff of 12 to 15, plus seasonal gardeners.
Following the death of Gertrude in 1946 and F. A. in 1955, the children created a foundation which opened the house and grounds to the public as a museum. Today, Stan Hywet is the nation’s 6th largest tour-able house.
Tickets for the tours are purchased in the former carriage house, which had space for 10 cars, a mechanic’s pit, car wash and horse stables. The chauffeur and groomsmen lived on the second floor.
Both guided and self-guided as well as specialized tours of the house and gardens are offered at scheduled times throughout the day, so it’s best to plan ahead accordingly by visiting the website www.stanhywet.org.
The Plane Tree Allee
Originally, the estate encompassed some 1,500 acres. Today, the grounds have been reduced to 70 acres with the Great Meadow fronting the house alongside remnants of an adjacent apple orchard. The grounds sport, not one, but two allees, one of birch, the other of London plane trees.
The Japanese Garden
Visitors can stroll through a Japanese Garden, with a teahouse and small stone at the top of the rise representing Mt. Fuji. A Rose Garden and the Great Garden, are used for flower arrangements and the growing of vegetables, and a breakfast garden, filled with blue, white and yellow flowers, the colors of the Goodyear Wingfoot symbol.
Interestingly, the Japanese Garden lies on top a cistern with two-100,000-gallon tanks of water, used for the laundry and to fill the large, indoor pool the Seiberling sons wanted to be included in the design.
A Section of the Lagoon
Further on, the man-made Lagoon now occupies the former quarry, which the Seiberlings used for canoeing, swimming, fishing and ice skating in winter.
The Lich Gate Entrance to the English Garden
Perhaps the most enchanting spot on the grounds is the English Garden. Designed by Ellen Biddle Shipman, the garden is entered through a lich gate, a common entrance feature to an English churchyard. Filled with thousands of plants in around 150 varieties and an Arts and Crafts fountain, the garden is said to be similar in style to that of “The Secret Garden,” a 1911 children’s book written by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
Inside the English Garden
Be sure to walk through the Conservatory, used to grow tropical plants and exotic fruits, and the Playgarden, where the kids can enjoy a splash pad and playhouse and sit in a Model A truck. On an historical note, the Gate Lodge, once used as the residence of oldest son, Fred, is the site of the first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.
Those taking the house tour might like to know that an estimated 95 percent of the furnishings are original to the family and that the collection includes more than 20,000 objects.
While the house is built in a centuries-old style, the family insisted on modern elements for its day such as a private phone system, a largely hidden central heating despite the massive number of fireplaces and an internal vacuum cleaning installation.
The Dining Room Has Seating for up to 50 Guests
Tours include a look at the 3-story Great Hall, the Library with its collection of 5,000 books and the dining room that could seat up to 50 guests where a mural sports a Canterbury Tales motif.
The Morning RoomThe largest room, the 2,700 sq. ft. Music Room, served as the site for concert, plays and other events. In the room, Presidents Taft and Harding were treated to Seiberling concerts. Hellen Keller also visited the Seiberlings in the manor house.
The Adam Bedroom
On the way to the second floor, be sure to look at the Goodyear chest with an unusual rubber veneer sitting on the staircase. Upstairs, the family’s private living quarters give visitors a glimpse into numerous bedrooms, including the Master bedroom and F. A.’s Sleeping Porch.
For more information and reservations, phone330-836-5533 or stanhywet.org.
Restaurant Manager Bob Scofield Greets Patrons at Lanning’s
For a Place to Dine, continue the Golden Age experience by dining at Lanning’s, 826 N. Cleveland Massilon Road in Akron. For 50 years, the restaurant has offered an elegant, romantic and fun dining experience along the flowing waters of Yellow Creek.
Lanning’s Escargot – A Great Way to Start the Dining Experience
Tuxedo-clad waitpersons serve crafted cocktails and wines that earned a 2022 Award of Excellence from the Wine Spectator to match the upscale cuisine. Under the new ownership of Dean and Bethany Martin since 2020, the restaurant sports a new look but has retained two of its veteran chefs, one of which has worked in the restaurant for 29 years.
Rack of Lamb – On the Menu for Decades
Monday is Prime Rib night, and live entertainment is scheduled Wednesday through Saturday in Deano’s Lounge. Three of the performers have appeared on the Las Vegas Strip and all the entertainers provide music from the Great American songbook, including jazz and blues.
A Fabulous Meal Finale – Decadent Butter Cake
Recently, the restaurant underwent a million-dollar renovation with larger tables, new booths and a 1920s décor. A hand-painted mural in the lounge depicts members of the Rat Pack along with Dean and Bethany; another in a private dining room portrays Ohioans Halle Berry, John D. Rockefeller and F. A. Seiberling. Phone 330-666-1159 or www.lannings-restaurant.com.
The Rat Pack Mural
For a Place to Stay, the Hilton Garden Inn, 1307 Market Street, has a 24-hour fitness center, an indoor pool, free parking, free wi-Fi, pet-friendly rooms and an on-site restaurant. Phone 330-733-2900.
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