By CYNTHIA SCHUSTER EAKIN
“Restoration: If This Hall Could Talk,” the 2021 opening exhibit at Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens, breathes new life into an important element of Ohio’s history.
In 2015, Stan Hywet raised more than $1 million for the restoration of 16 spaces in the Manor House as part of the successful $6 million “2nd Century Campaign” supported by generous donors. After six years of work, this exhibit reveals the process of how the historic spaces were conserved, including a detailed look at the planning and research needed for such an ambitious undertaking.
“This exhibit showcases the culmination of the work that we have done over the past six years to restore portions of the Manor House,” Julie Frey, Stan Hywet curator noted. “I came to Stan Hywet in 2016. The planning for this project began with my predecessor. The rooms to be restored had already been selected. These included the principal entertainment spaces on the first floor, as well as Virginia’s bedroom, which we knew was historically inaccurate. We wanted to restore these areas to their original 1915 appearance. We had the opportunity to look back and replicate things exactly as they had been.”
“This exhibit gives you an insight into our decision making, based on archival evidence,” she explained. “Some of this evidence was taken from photos and some from actual samples. This all started out as being a giant puzzle that we had to solve.” Frey said the Stan Hywet curatorial team worked extensively with a conservation lab in Cleveland and managed to conserve 114 objects from the collection.
“Some of the fabric companies that the Seiberlings worked with in 1915 are still in existence. They had scraps of fabrics in their files that they could replicate,” she said. “We also sent a list of fabrics to companies that can print them digitally and they look identical to the original. Technology is really wild in how much they can do. We also worked with the Kent State University School of Fashion. They have one of the digital printing machines and it turned out to be a fun collaboration with the students.”
Frey said the original wallpaper in Virginia’s bedroom was patterned with a gold metallic design. The metallic material could not be digitally scanned. So, the company that they sent the wallpaper sample to painted the gold metallic design to replicate the original wallpaper.
“The fireplace in the breakfast room is made with Delft tile. Delft tile is softer. The Seiberling family often used the fireplace in that room. As a result, 50 of the tiles were partially destroyed or missing,” Frey said. “We sent some of the original tiles along with images of the dogs that were pictured on the tiles to a company in England that still makes Delft tiles so that they could reproduce them.”
Frey said that there are a few areas of the restoration project that they have yet to complete. “There are still no curtains in the solarium. We know that they existed, but we don’t know what they looked like. We may encounter that information farther down the road,” she added.
Frey noted that there is a new book available in the Stan Hywet gift shop. “Entitled ‘The Manor House,’ it touches on the restoration room-by-room and is a nice companion piece to the exhibit, for those visitors who would like to take something home,” she said.
New for guests this year is the Outdoor History Tour, a guided experience in the gardens and grounds. This tour shares information about the builders of Stan Hywet Hall, the state-of-the-art technology during that time period, the service buildings and the Seiberling farm. It is a companion to the Nooks and Crannies Tour that is expected to return to the schedule with other guided tours in June. “Since there are no guided tours of the Manor House right now, we decided to add an Outdoor History Tour. This tour is about the domestic staff that kept the grounds and the property up, and the use and upkeep of the house. Our Nooks and Crannies Tour has always been very popular. We call this our outdoor Nooks tour,” Frey added.
The “Winds of Change” exhibit in the gardens is an installation that incorporates a kinetic component, using wind or motion as a core element of the design. The sculptures have been created by five local women artists, including Shelley Funai, Kimmy Henderson, Nicole Schwan, Michelle Wilson and Jennifer Winkler. In addition to this exhibit in the gardens, there is one more sculpture representing this year’s exhibit of restoration. Joe Ott created a metal sculpture that is featured on the walk to the Manor House. It is a lotus flower in a metal frame with concentric rings and areas that represent stained glass.
Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens is open for tours on Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with the last admission at 4:30 p.m. The estate is also open on Memorial Day and Labor Day with regular operating hours. Most tours are currently self-guided, following COVID protocol. Guided tours are expected to return in June, depending on the guidelines issued by the state and county public health departments. The play garden is open this season, beginning on May 1.
Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens, at 714 N. Portage Path in Akron, is the former residence of Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company co-founder F.A. Seiberling and his family. In 1957, Stan Hywet became a non-profit historic estate museum so that the public could benefit from the cultural, educational and inspirational riches of one of the most significant achievements in architecture and horticulture to come out of America’s Industrial Age. Open for tours from April through December, Stan Hywet is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and is Akron’s oldest National Historic Landmark. Visit www.stanhywet.org for more details about exhibits and events.