Friday, May 22, 2015

Akron’s Stan Hywet Hall Celebrates 100 Years

About one hundred years ago, Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. co-founder F.A. Seiberling and his family were getting ready to move into their new home, the magnificent Tudor Revival mansion known as Stan Hywet Hall.

This year, the estate — now a public museum and gardens — is celebrating it’s 100th birthday with a series of special events, exhibits and specialty tours.

The 65,000-square-foot manor house is the sixth-largest historic home open to the public in the United States. The Tudor revival structure contains more than 21,000 panes of glass, 23 fireplaces, and intricately hand-carved wood paneling — so typical of the the luxury available to the Rubber Barons of Akron and other successful industrialists. Amazingly, the home still features 95 percent of the original furnishings chosen by the Seiberlings and their decorators.

Along with the special events, Stan Hywet Hall is launching a multi-million dollar campaign to help fund ongoing restoration work. Here are some of the events planned for 2015:

• The twice-daily “Blueprints to Bricks,” a tour focusing on the planning and construction of the estate and manor house, which required 3,000 blueprints and architectural drawings. Tour guests will visit areas and spaces not usually accessible to the public.

• “Picturing the Past,” 15 oversize photographs of the property dating from 1912 to 1915 to be exhibited outdoors on certain days during the summer. Each picture will be positioned at the photographer’s original vantage point on the grounds, allowing visitors a “now-and-then” perspective of the estate.

• The artistic installation “Bloom!,” opening June 2 in the gardens. Glass artist Craig Mitchell Smith, whose work is displayed at public gardens and arboretums throughout the country, will install 32 larger-than-life sculptures, many of them inspired by Stan Hywet. The sculptures — featuring botanical and nature themes, such as Tudor Rose— will be installed in the Breakfast Room Garden; and Butterflies of Northern Ohio, near the butterfly habitat.

• “Twilight & Flashlights,” an evening garden tour on six summer evenings in August and September. The offering will allow visitors to see “Bloom!” in a different light. All the pieces in the glass exhibit will be offered for public sale.

• The official 100th anniversary celebration, scheduled for Aug. 16 as part of Stan Hywet’s Community Day. The event will include free tours, a concert by the Goodyear Band, an antique car show, a vintage baseball game, and historic interpretations by the History First Hand acting troupe. Admission is free for registered guests.

• Several living-history days; “Woof Walk” days, for pet owners and their leashed dogs; the annual Father’s Day Classic antique car show; a gala Shakespearean ball and the annual Ohio Shakespeare Festival; and the Deck the Hall yuletide light and decoration show

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Longwood Manor Preserved, Protected

Where does the time go? I remember reading about Longwood Manor’s impending demise back in 2007, as the Akron Beacon Journal reported that access to the manor house would cease because it no longer met building codes for public use.

Built in a free Tudor Revival style, Longwood Manor was built in 1924. It sits on 300 acres of land that belonged to Colonel William Frew Long, the founding Mayor of Macedonia and a Veteran of World War I and II. His land and the home were given to the citizens of Macedonia for use as a public park in accordance with his Will upon his death in 1984.

Though it served as a visual centerpiece for the park around it and was being used for public events, the house was allowed to fall into disrepair as expensive maintenance was ignored or postponed. As a result, the utilities were cut off and the building was closed in 2007 as the wrecker’s ball cast its shadow.

But that was not the end. Interest in preserving the building slowly grew throughout the community, and by the Fall of 2012 a group had formed to raise money and begin some of the most critical restoration work. That work continues to proceed today, and the house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2014.

Today’s group of volunteers is dedicated to Preserving the History of the city of Macedonia, with a primary task of updating the Manor so it can serve as a public gathering space, Museum and the headquarters of the organization.

To see additional restoration photos and find out more about the Longwood Manor Historical Society, go HERE.

There’s also a nice online article about the restoration of the Manor HERE.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

A Man's House is His Castle. Until It's Not.

 Over the years, I’ve seen any number of hideous houses mimicking Tudor-Revival styles; Tudor “ranches”… Tudor “split-levels” … butt-ugly homes where the proportions were all wrong, or where the builder tacked on an inappropriate element where it did not belong…the list is long.

I particularly remember a large home in Bath, Ohio, where the builder accented the formal entry with a poorly-imagined front inspired by Hampton Court; the rest of the house being rather stodgy and barn-like. Like a lot of McMansions, big -- but ill-conceived and ugly.

So it wasn’t surprising that the case of Surrey farmer Robert Fidler sparked some interest.  Apparently Fildler secretly built a mock Tudor castle, hidden behind a cover of tall hay bales for several years in an effort to bypass local restrictions. The 63-year-old thought he would be immune from planning rules as his family had been living there for more than four years and nobody had objected to it. Until he revealed his “creation” and the objectors came forward, fast and furious.

After many court appearances, local officials have finally ruled the four-bedroom home on Green Belt land at Honeycrocks Farm in Salfords, Surrey – worth well in excess of £1million if sold on the open market - must be pulled down within 90 days.

It’s an interesting case – and honestly, I’ve seen far worse looking in terms of Tudor-revival houses. While the backside is a little crude and not-so-well proportioned (the towers were built around grain silos) I found the front of the house (second photo) to be quite charming and very well-handled. The interiors look rather nice, too.

It does seem rather funny that no one had any visual objections to the positively ugly pile of hay bales and tarpaulins for over four years, but can’t stand the sight of the revealed house. I know the point is that Fildler bypassed the planning restrictions which everyone else must follow, but visual blight is visual blight. Would it be okay if he just covered it back up?

Read more about it HERE.