Step back in time at the estate of Goodyear co-founder F.A. Seiberling and a re-creation of an 1860-era Ohio village.
A welcoming scent of fresh gingerbread cookies and the sounds of jolly carolers resonating through the manor house would be reason enough to visit. Add the illumination of more than 800,000 individual lights, and it’s easy to see why Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens’ annual holiday makeover is a December favorite.
The historic estate’s annual “Deck the Hall” celebration is a reflection of the holiday spirit Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. co-founder F.A. Seiberling and his family embraced when they occupied the sprawling home from 1915 to 1955.
“Christmas was always really important to the Seiberling family,” says Linda Conrad, Stan Hywet Hall’s president and executive director. “As a museum, we always look to engage our guests, and Christmas felt like a great way to start new traditions.”
Stan Hywet Hall held its first “Deck the Hall” celebration in 1996, and this year’s 27-night event continues to feature the outdoor favorites that repeat holiday-season visitors have come to expect. Each evening begins with the 5:30 p.m. lighting of the courtyard’s 20-foot Christmas tree, which is dressed in layers of colorful lights and glistening ornaments and surrounded by a beautiful arrangement of flowers.
New outdoor additions for 2014 include an updated “Dazzle” music and light show and the debut of Gingerbread Land, a winter-season transformation of the property’s existing 5,000-square-foot play garden.
The Seiberlings’ ties to the estate date back to 1912, when the family decided to build a home in what was then the country, away from downtown Akron’s industrial boom. Cleveland architect Charles S. Schneider designed the Tudor revival mansion, and in December 1915, the Seiberlings moved into the 64,500-square-foot home, which boasts more than 65 rooms, 23 bathrooms and 23 fireplaces.
“The family’s motto was ‘Non nobis solum,’ which means ‘not for us alone,’ ” explains Gailmarie Fort, Stan Hywet Hall’s vice president of outreach and communications. “Christmas was always a way to open up the home, not only for the immediate family but for guests from all around the world.”
Today, Stan Hywet Hall is the city of Akron’s first and largest building registered as a National Historic Landmark, and it ranks as the nation’s sixth-largest restored home that is open to the public. All of the home’s furnishings are original to the time the Seiberlings lived there.
“It’s really a national treasure,” Conrad says. “It’s often considered the most significant estate for not only its size but the authenticity of its collection.”
The home’s interior is where “Deck the Hall” shines, as it examines the Seiberlings’ connection to the holidays and showcases the property’s elegant details. This year’s theme is “Christmas Around the World,” and rooms of the house will be decorated in the holiday furnishings of countries across the globe, focusing on the traditions of St. Nicholas, Santa Claus and Father Christmas. The rooms will represent countries that the Seiberlings visited, including Germany and England, and will give visitors a snapshot of what the holidays looked like when the family lived there.
Guests will also have access to the mansion’s music room, a 2,700-square-foot space furnished with an original Aeolian organ equipped with 2,650 pipes. It was in this room where the family’s eldest daughter, Irene, was married on Christmas Day, 1923.
Each evening, visitors are invited to take in live orchestral and choral performances while cozying up to the fire with beer, wine, hot cocoa and other holiday-themed treats.
Guests also have the opportunity to take one of the Seiberlings’ traditions home with them: gingerbread cookies. After each of the family’s Christmas parties, it was customary to send each guest home with the freshly baked treats.
Since the estate opened to the public, Stan Hywet Hall staffers have updated the original recipe for the Seiberlings’ famous cookies, which are baked on-site each night and available for purchase.
“People feel like this is a warm, family estate,” Conrad says. “And that’s a wonderful statement, because even though it’s so massive, it certainly feels like someone’s home.”
Hale Farm & Village’s Christmas season lantern tours let visitors ring in the holidays like it’s 1864.
“They capture the sights, sounds and smells of [Christmas] in the 1800s,” explains site manager Jason Klein. “It fully immerses people in that time.”
Since 1958, Hale Farm & Village has offered visitors a glimpse into the daily life of 19th-century settler Jonathan Hale, a Connecticut native who was the farm’s original owner. By way of historical re-enactments and artisan demonstrations, guests learn local lore, traditions and the religious practices of the settlers who lived in the Cuyahoga Valley during Hale’s time.
The 90-minute Holiday Lantern Tours build on that by providing sights of decorated homes and the sounds of traditional carols as visitors make their way through the village to a special party.
Klein says this year’s tours will focus on the artisanal and social traditions of Christmases past. Rather than just enjoying the finished products, “Handcrafted for the Holidays” will allow guests to witness spinning, weaving and decorating techniques similar to those that would have been practiced in this region of Ohio during the 19th century.
“It plays very well into the crafts and trades we have at Hale Farm all the time,” he explains. “This is just moving into that holiday realm, where everyone would be baking cookies or making wreaths and ornaments together.”
Following the tour, guests are able to purchase the handmade holiday wares from the farm’s gift shop. All of the products for sale are made on-site and include handmade glass ornaments, candles, pottery and ironworks from the farm’s blacksmith.
“It’s about giving people a tangible experience of history,” Klein says. “Hale Farm takes history from a book and puts it in a real context.”
Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens
714 N. Portage Path, Akron 44303
Hours: “Deck the Hall” runs 5–8 p.m. (last admission), check website for dates
Admission: Adults $18, children $8,
children 5 and under free.
Hale Farm & Village
2686 Oak Hill Rd., Bath 44210
330/666-3711 ext. 1720, halefarm.org
Hours: Lantern tours run 6–9 p.m. on
Dec. 6, 12–14, 19–23
Admission: Adults $20, children 3–12 $12