The history behind Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens

A man’s home is his castle. For F.A. Seiberling, co-founder of Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., the castle was his home.

Seiberling and his wife, Gertrude, built a dream house off a dirt road in the Akron countryside, a palatial estate to share with their six children: Fred, Irene, Willard, Penfield, Virginia and Franklin.

The family had outgrown its Victorian mansion at 158 E. Market St. and hoped to move west of the factory smoke to a peaceful, scenic location on the outskirts of town.

“Every Sunday beginning about 1911, we took a three-seated wagon and rode all around looking for the spot we all thought the loveliest,” daughter Irene Seiberling Harrison told the Beacon Journal in 1982. “Finally we found a promontory that afforded fine views of the Cuyahoga Valley. Father bought 3,000 acres.”

A site near the former White Sand & Stone Co. quarry along the Portage Path afforded a beautiful, natural setting for a majestic mansion that the Seiberlings eventually named Stan Hywet. In old English, Stan Hywet (pronounced “Stan Hee-Wit”) means “stone quarry.” Other names that the Seiberlings considered included Stan Scylf (“stone heap”), Stan Hege (“stone hedge”) and Stan Wig (“stone way”).

“We three older children didn’t want Papa to build Stan Hywet,” Harrison admitted. “We’d visited the big homes in the East and they weren’t happy homes. But Papa promised this would be a happy home, and it was. ‘I’m not building it only for you children,’ he told us. ‘I want it to serve other generations.’ ”

The family welcomed design proposals from more than 25 architectural firms, but didn’t feel comfortable with plans for French Revival, Colonial Revival or Beaux-Arts styles. Finally, George B. Post & Sons of New York suggested a Tudor Revival design that the Seiberlings thought had great potential.
Charles S. Schneider, supervisor of the firm’s Cleveland office, led the project and soon quit the New York company to become the Seiberlings’ personal architect. Thousands of blueprints were drawn up for the project.

Hoping to draw inspiration from English homes, the Seiberlings and their architect booked passage aboard the Titanic for the ship’s scheduled trip from New York to Great Britain following its maiden voyage in April 1912. After the terrible tragedy at sea, F.A., Gertrude and Irene Seiberling traveled with Schneider aboard a different ship.

They toured about a dozen Tudor manors in England, paying particular attention to Ockwells Manor in Berkshire, Compton Wynyates in Warwickshire and Haddon Hall in Derbyshire.

“We got such a warm welcome everywhere and we were total strangers,” Irene Seiberling Harrison recalled.

For Stan Hywet, Schneider designed a three-story, 64,500-square-foot Manor House of red brick, sandstone, slate, copper, oak and plaster. Its interior woods included oak, chestnut, black walnut, sandalwood, teak, rosewood and mahogany.

Everything about the design was grand. The manor had 65 rooms, including 18 bedrooms and 23 bathrooms. There were 23 fireplaces, 273 doors and 21,455 panes of glass. In addition to the manor, Stan Hywet included a Carriage House, Gate Lodge, Gardener’s Cottage, Conservatory, Poultry House and Poultry Manager’s House.

Construction continued from 1912 to 1915. Boston landscape architect Warren H. Manning and New York interior decorator Hugo F. Huber were hired. The Seiberlings traveled to England with Huber in January 1915 aboard the Lusitania to search for furnishings for Stan Hywet.

The Akron home was decorated with Persian rugs, Flemish tapestries, crystal chandeliers, 14th century wood carvings, Elizabethan beds, European paintings and other exquisite antiques.

While the average price of a new home in 1915 was $3,200 (about $74,000 today), the Manor House cost at least $516,000 (about $12.3 million today). The entire project cost at least $2 million ($48 million today) at a time when the Goodyear executive’s wealth was about $3 million.

No wonder that Seiberling wrote to Schneider in May 1915: “I am getting pretty weary of the continued additional expense that is being put upon me for this, that and the other thing and am getting into a frame of mind where I want the house finished on about any old line so that I can move into it and some day after I have lived with it, I will be perhaps ready for some changes.”
Seiberling moved into Stan Hywet Hall to supervise workers in October 1915. Although there were still details to iron out, the family joined him there on Christmas.

Stan Hywet was finally complete. A national treasure made its formal debut to the public June 16, 1916, with an Elizabethan costume party commemorating the 300th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death. More than 400 guests wore regal costumes befitting the occasion, which the Beacon Journal hailed as “one of the largest and most notable affairs ever held in Akron.”

The Seiberlings welcomed all to their happy home, a showplace that continues to welcome guests 100 years later.

Two years after Stan Hywet was completed, Seiberling received a glowing letter from his architect.

“To tell the truth, I can hardly complain of the lack of good things having been said about your house,” Schneider wrote May 1, 1917. “Many persons have spoken of it and I am always proud of what I may have accomplished but it is true that it would have been impossible for me to have done what is there if I had not had most wonderful clients in Mr. and Mrs. Seiberling … I ofttimes wonder whether I shall ever have the good fortune again to work for such splendid people.”

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