FEBRUARY, 2016 – In a state where Victorian painted ladies and white-columned Greek revivals line the streets like dessert offerings on a silver platter, LaGrange, Georgia, just an hour from both Atlanta and Columbus on I-85, has one home that stands above the rest, and celebrates its centennial anniversary in 2016.
The centerpiece of LaGrange’s architectural treasure trove is the 1916 mansion at Hills and Dales Estate, the former family home of the illustrious Callaway family. Patriarch Fuller E. Callaway made his late 19th century fortune in the textile industry. He purchased the property formerly known as Ferrell Gardens in 1911, a tract of land just outside of the city where original owners Nancy and Mickleberry Ferrel had laid out a terraced boxwood garden. They opened their gardens to the public for the citizens of LaGrange to enjoy, and the Ferrells’ daughter Sarah maintained them until her death in 1903. As a young boy, Callaway remembered playing there, and walking and talking with Sarah Ferrell. Although they had become overgrown and unwieldy in the time since Sarah had passed away, he knew they should be the county’s centerpiece once again. In 1914 Fuller commissioned noted Georgia architect Neel Reid to build his first residential project, a stately mansion to complement the formal garden as a 25th anniversary gift to Fuller’s wife Ida. Eventually, the Callaways’ son Cason would move to Pine Mountain, Georgia, where he would found Callaway Gardens. Second son, Fuller Jr., inherited Hills and Dales and raised his family there, his wife Alice caring for its famous garden as had her mother-in-law Ida and Sarah and Nancy Ferrell before her.
The project to restore the mansion began in 2009 to install an HVAC system “invisible” to guests while maintaining the historic integrity of the home; the house was also entirely rewired, and emergency lighting and incipient smoke detection was installed, as well as a double interlock fire protection system and security system. According to the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation: “all of the systems were carefully integrated into the home and were designed and installed to minimize any alteration to the building’s architecture. In addition to the systems work, damaged plaster and deteriorated finishes on the second and third floors were carefully restored.” The estate was one of the 2011 winners of The Georgia Trust’s Excellence in Restoration Preservation Award.
The official invitation-only centennial celebration takes place April 28: instrumental music in the garden, house tours and delectable hors-d’oeuvres will be accompanied by a historical presentation featuring period music to celebrate the history of the house and garden. Several Hills and Dales collection objects will be highlighted while a sampling of original Neel Reid architectural drawings will be on display. Throughout the year, the home’s history will be highlighted at an array of lectures, exhibits, picnics and other events which will be open to the public.
A horticultural masterpiece and a rarity in that the house was designed to complement the extant garden, Hills and Dales features collections of rare plants, almost all of which are original to the property during the time of the Callaway family’s occupancy. The boxwoods growing there today are all either original to Sarah Ferrell’s 1841 garden or are cuttings from her original boxwoods. Since Alice’s death in 1998, the property has been maintained as a historic house museum and garden, and one of the finest examples of preservation in the South.
If you go:
Check out these special events celebrating the home’s anniversary all year long.
Heirloom Antiques Lecture and Exhibit
Tuesday, March 8, 2016
Antiques expert Spaulding Nix will present a program about antique furniture. During the presentation Nix will provide tips on determining age, type of wood, style and provenance of the furniture pieces. This program will help you learn more about your own family heirlooms or become a more discerning buyer. The presentation will be accompanied by a small exhibition of antiques that Spaulding will analyze and interpret. The lecture and exhibit will be accompanied by a reception.
Picnic in the Garden
11-2 pm, Saturday, May 7, 2016
Free admission to the garden with a blanket and picnic basket. Enjoy old-fashioned games and pony rides, face painting, sno-cones and a balloon artist. As a special treat, enjoy tethered hot-air balloon rides overlooking the house and gardens. There will be live music and special prizes for the best picnic spreads.
100th Anniversary Flower Show
Saturday, June 4 and Sunday, June 5, 2016
In celebration of its centennial the Callaway home will be festooned with flowers in every room arranged by floral artists representing local garden clubs. On Saturday and Sunday the home and gardens will be open free for residents of Troup County.
Decorative Silver Lecture and Exhibit
Tuesday, September, 2016 (Tentative)
Renowned silver specialist Joseph P. Brady will present an engaging program about the history of decorative silver. The illustrated presentation will include tips to help you evaluate your own family heirlooms or become a more informed buyer. The presentation will be accompanied by an exhibition of decorative silver objects from the community.
Annual Anniversary Lecture & Reception
Tuesday, October 4, 2016
Jennifer Dickey, Sandra Deal, and Catherine Lewis will speak about their new book Memories of the Mansion: The Story of Georgia’s Governor’s Mansion. Each attendee will be given a historic boxwood plant propagated at the estate.
Stories in the Garden
Sunday, October 16, 2016
In partnership with the Azalea Storytelling Festival two story tellers will present stories in the pecan grove featuring LaGrange’s own Fred Newman. Fred is the sound effects expert for Garrison Keillor’s “Prairie Home Companion” on National Public Radio. After the storytelling, there will be a commemorative tree planting to honor the 100th anniversary of the home.
Hills & Dales Holidays
December 5 through December 26, 2016
The Callaway home will be decorated for Christmas using all fresh greens for three weeks during December. To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the home a special scaled gingerbread house replicating the Callaway home will be on display in the Palm Room. The Christmas tree will be styled circa 1916.
Children’s Christmas Celebration
Saturday, December 17, 2016
Children will be invited to create their own gingerbread house and Christmas ornaments. One of the ornament designs will have a 100th anniversary theme. There will also be a Christmas sing-a-long, story time and visits with Santa.