Written by: Brenda Costarella
With a cold snap in the air and the snowflakes making their debut this past weekend, the feeling of the holidays is certainly at hand. What could heighten those feelings of Christmas joy more than to indulge in a special tradition at the place that an Akron family once called home? This estate, known as Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens, is a veritable treasure box of Christmas cheer.
Over the river and through the woods lies a majestic West Akron home, which has long been associated with the Seiberling family, the evolution of the rubber company Goodyear, and our own city of Akron. The Seiberlings’ former dwelling has been painstakingly maintained and continues to enchant audiences far and wide. There truly is no better time than now to feel the Christmas spirit in what is better known as Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens.
With friendly staff and volunteers to greet, the whole experience flows with ease. The Christmas music is the first clue that you are in for a festive holiday treat. Mindy Harvey, a resident of Cuyahoga Falls and a lifelong Ohioan, is the Guest Service Coordinator at Stan Hywet. Harvey has been enchanted with Stan Hywet since she went on a tour in the fourth grade. Her years of employment have offered her the experience to validate this festival.
“Coming year to year and experiencing this house creates memories that last a lifetime,” Harvey said.
In the courtyard outside the Carriage House, Santa greets guests and poses for pictures. He beckons frosty visitors to help him light his majestic Christmas tree. The beautifully-lit tree beams brightly, its light spreading all across the grounds.
You can smell warm, freshly-cooked gingerbread cookies waft through the air. The staff stands at the ready to serve them. The next stop is Santa’s Workshop, where you can find Santa encouraging wide-eyed children to check their Christmas lists. He offers the youngsters a sugar cookie complete with a copy of Gertrude Seiberling’s sugar cookie recipe.
Nearby, Molly’s Shop is gleaming, completely stuffed with an impressive array of Christmas holiday items including ornaments, linens and toiletries. Adjacent to this retail space is Molly’s Cafe, also dressed for the holidays. Here, one can enjoy a short respite with a steamy cup of cocoa or a small sandwich and great conversation.
Don’t forget to stand by the roaring open fire situated conveniently in the courtyard. Take the chill off before venturing out to two other attractions. Luring you on your way are over a half a million twinkling lights.
Dawn Glascoe and her date Mark Jaden, both of Copley, told me that visiting Stan Hywet is their Christmas tradition.
“We feel this place brings out the true meaning of the holidays,” Glascoe said. “The lights, though, create the magic.”
A grand glass house, otherwise known as the Corbin Conservatory, proudly sits on the estate and demands attention. A bevy of hundreds of holiday poinsettias in every hue, not to mention flowering cacti, graces the first large room. These healthy holiday plants are available for purchase.
In the next glass room stands Mr. Jingeling, who is passing out “good luck keys.” Families line up around him to hear his message to the children, telling them to be on their best behavior this holiday.
One family talked of the tradition that Stan Hywet has created for them. Mark and Dawn Gorman of Hudson brought their daughter Hannah along.
“We had come last year, but this year we decided to come with extended family that was visiting,” Mark Gorman said. “We like it a lot.”
“I come for the lights. I really enjoy them,” Dawn Gorman said.
In another room, young and old alike can be heard commenting on the piney scent of the Christmas tree walkway. A unique and fragrant “wall of herbs” occupies the corner of this area. Two such gazers were Kathryn and Joyce Kehl of Kent and New York, N.Y., respectively. They have come for years to see the lights and experience the holidays here.
“It’s our tradition,” Joyce Kehl said. “We love to come and see the different displays every year.”
More outside lights create a feast for the eyes on the way to the grand house. Outlined trees of different sizes illuminate the front yard and beckon one in. If the dwelling and the lifestyle here are not enough to grab your attention, the Christmas cheer is bound to make you smile. It is a sight to behold. There are close to 100 decorated trees inside the 65-room Manor House. “Sounds of the season” is this year’s theme. Volunteers are found throughout the house and are full of information about the house and the contents.
All of the main rooms are lavishly decorated. Every nook and cranny is embellished with Christmas decor. Every room plays Christmas songs and is decorated to match the music. Winter Wonderland, the Twelve Days of Christmas, the Little Drummer Boy and his massive drums, Silver Bells with a shining array of bells hanging from the beams, and Frosty the Snowman with too many snowmen to count are just a few of the venues. Outside, more lights and a 20-foot tree elegantly define the West Terrace. This creates a brilliant backdrop to the house. Stan Hywet has truly never looked better.
The Seiberling family valued their holiday traditions and saw them as a time for family and extended family to meet, greet and be seen. Hundreds of individuals come every day to visit this home and grounds for the spectacle known as Deck the Hall. Come share a moment of joy and create a memory for those you love this holiday season!
Located at 714 North Portage Path in Akron, this holiday experience is open Nov. 29-30 and Dec. 1-2, 6-9, 13-23 and 26-30. Hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and prices vary according to age.