Feature photo: Hills and Dales, courtesy of Adam Martin
On almost the spookiest day of the year, October 30, the Southern Garden History Society invited local members to join the Garden Club of Georgia at Hills and Dales Estate in LaGrange, Georgia. Hills and Dales was the historic home of textile magnate, Fuller E. Callaway, Sr., and his descendants.
The house presides over a well-preserved, antebellum garden established by Sarah Ferrell in the 1840s. As a boy, Callaway had often visited the garden, and after Ferrell’s death, purchased the property in 1911. Callaway and his wife, Ida Cason Callaway, commissioned Atlanta architects Hal Hentz and Neel Reid to design an opulent home to replace the Gothic Revival cottage from the Ferrell era. An essential desire was for this structure to complement the historic gardens. Today the entire estate and its visitor center are open to the public. The October invitees watched the visitor center’s outstanding film to learn about the history of the estate and to appreciate the beauty of the elaborate gardens. The estate’s garden staff had decorated for the season in particularly ingenious ways, making the garden tours amusing. Skeletons posed with a hoe and shovel seemed entirely appropriate!
The Redbud District hosted this year’s Garden Club of Georgia’s annual fundraiser, which benefits their statewide Historic Landscape Preservation Grant program. The SGHS State Ambassadors have successfully piggy-backed with The Garden Club of Georgia’s fundraiser for several years. The choice of Hill and Dales Estate was especially meaningful as the site’s executive director Carleton B. Wood is a past president of the Southern Garden History Society. Carleton, as always, was able to provide an engaging program and an educational atmosphere for both groups.
After signing in at the door with safety protocols, some attendees went directly to hear a talk by SGHS member and Hills and Dales Estate Horticulture Manager Jo Phillips on “Heirloom Plants for Garden Fragrance.” Others enjoyed the exhibits about the Callaway family and the estate’s past, as well as viewed the newly produced Hills and Dales film. A ride on the tram transported visitors to the main house and gardens for walking tours before lunch. There was another opportunity to hear Phillips talk in the afternoon for those who could not attend in the morning. A box lunch was provided and relished in the renovated pool house. The clever Halloween decorations were located near the intersection of the house, the pool house, and the greenhouse. Plastic never looked so scary!
In the afternoon guests could wander the grounds, walk through the fascinating greenhouse, or tour the Callaway home. Of course, a detour to the gift shop concluded the day for the Garden Club, while Carleton led the SGHS group to the home’s Game Room on the third floor. There, the group viewed original hand-drawn plans of the house and grounds, as well as some new artifacts donated by Ferrell and Callaway descendants. Carleton explained how these plans and items had been unknown for years and how excited the foundation was to receive them.
To top this special artifact viewing, the SGHS group appreciated a wine and cheese buffet on the terrace, renewing old friendships and discovering new ones.