For my wife’s birthday (7/13), we took a trip up to Akron, OH, to visit her family. The weather was absolutely beautiful, so we tried to do as many outdoor activities as we could. One of them was to walk through the gardens of Stan Hywet Hall. While we were there, we decided to pay a little extra and tour the Hall itself, something my wife had never done.
Stan Hywet Hall is a Tudor Revival house… I say “house”, but mansion might be a better description. It was built between 1912 and 1915 by one of the co-founders of Goodyear, F.A. Seiberling. The architect was Cleveland designer Charles Schneider.
Hywet Hall is a 65-room country estate sitting on 70 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens and grounds. The house itself is a work of art, with over 21,000 panes of glass, 23 fireplaces, and hand-carved woodwork throughout. Many of the rooms have a wood theme to them.
The Solarium, for example, is paneled in sandalwood. The floor is fired red clay tile. Most of them are smooth and plain, but there were also some great arts-and-crafts tiles randomly placed here and there.
The Library has bookmatched walnut paneling 6’ up the wall. The walnut theme continues on the ceiling, with black walnut ceiling beams. The intersection of each beam is a hand-carved flower design, each one being completely unique and different from the others. (Oh, and the library is complete with a secret passage – a door in one of the bookcases that is weighted so well you can open it with the pull of a finger, even fully loaded with books.)
The Music room (we might call it a ball room today?), at 2700 square feet, has more usable square footage than my house. The paneling is all quarter-sawn white oak, which is noteworthy, but much more impressive was the 12” wide maple plank flooring and the 19’ x 30’ handmade wool rug covering most of the floor.
There are 18 bedrooms in all. Most of them were wallpapered or paneled in oak, but one room was done entirely in butternut, from the floor to the wall paneling to the ceiling beams. The master bedroom is paneled in reclaimed English Chestnut – the wood was purchased from a 17th-century English manor slated for demolition.
Unfortunately, cameras and cell phones were prohibited in the hall, so I couldn’t take pictures of any of it. You’ll have to take my word on how amazing the woodwork was. If you’re ever in the Akron area, and you have an hour to kill and $12 to spend, you should absolutely take the tour of Stan Hywet Hall.
There is one thing I noticed about the woodwork and wanted to mention, just because of the sheer genius of it all. I actually saw it first thing when we were in the carriage house buying our admission tickets. It was a construction technique used on the interior doors and later repeated throughout the entire hall in those doors and in the paneling, as well.
I took some time to examine it, and this is what I believe I was looking at:
The transition between the stiles/rails and the panel was a 45 degree angle (on the rail and stile). After the door or panel was assembled, however, the artisan came back and applied a complex molding to the stiles and the upper rail, but NOT on the rail where it connects to the bottom side of the panel. It gave a really interesting look to the panels and doors. I asked one of the museum associates why the bottom of every panel was missing the complex molding and they said it was a technique done in the early part of the last century to aid in dusting! No complex molding on the edge that catches the most dust means less dusting!
In a house with four bedrooms and no paneled wall, ithe amount of dusting time saved probably isn’t very noticeable. But in a 65-room country estate, with well over 100 paneled doors and 15 or so rooms with paneled walls, I’m betting it made quite a difference!
Not sure I’ll ever panel every wall in a house and get a chance to try this technique, but I do love the idea and the creative thinking it took to come up with such a time-saver.
-- Ethan, http://thekiltedwoodworker.com