Monday, August 19, 2013

A Visit to Hills and Dales Estate in LaGrange

Hills & Dales and a play in LaGrange

Hills and Dales Estate in LaGrange, Georgia
Photo @Debi Lander

While we found crowds in Callaway Gardens, we encountered peaceful, serene landscapes at the Hills & Dales Estate, former home of Fuller Callaway and his wife Ida.  Oh, what a hidden gem!  The Hills and Dales homestead is tucked away in LaGrange, Georgia, some sixty miles southwest of Atlanta.

As always, we started with the short movie in the lovely the visitor center (never seen such elegant bathrooms in a visitor center) and then took the shuttle instead of walking to the three-story family home and formal gardens. With Judy's foot issues and July heat, that was a no-brainer.  

Boxwood PlantingsPhoto courtesy of Hills & Dales Estate
Actually the gardens pre-date the Callaways.  First came Sarah Ferrell who developed the plot from 1841-1903.  Her formal boxwood garden covered six terraces- former cotton fields. She designed plantings to reflect her religious beliefs and boxwoods at the entrance still spell out the word GOD, as she had planned. Sarah opened her gardens to the public and they were so lovely that even during the Civil War, Union soldiers who came to LaGrange left them alone.

The smell of boxwood is pleasing to me. If I had a spare million, I'd have a formal garden with lots of boxwood-- and, of course, a gardener to tend to the plants! To meander through Hills and Dales acreage is a delightful way to spend time.  Unfortunately, the Good Girls always have a packed itinerary, so sitting and relaxing was out of the question.

The Sun Ray Garden
@Debi Lander

Inside the Greenhouse
@Debi Lander

We did step into the greenhouse and saw the colorful ray garden, a much newer addition on the side.

In 1916 Fuller Callaway, who had known Sarah Ferrell, purchased the land and decided to build on the hilltop, the site where the Ferrell had been. This entrepreneur turned textile magnate had grand plans: his 13,000 square foot Italian villa features a bold two-story entrance portico, sweeping double staircases, many carved stone and marble fireplaces, vaulted ceilings and fabulous views of the gardens. Take the tour and see this fascinating home.

Entrance Portico
Photo @Debi Lander

Side Gardens and Estate House
Photo @Debi Lander
Fuller's wife, Ida, took over caring for the gardens adding fountains and statuary. When she and Fuller died, Fuller, Jr. and his wife, Alice, moved into Hills and Dales. Alice worked for over 62 years on the gardens adding the pool, ray and herb gardens and ornamental plants. When Alice passed away in 1998, the estate was bequeathed to the Callaway Foundation.  Now the home as well as the garden is open to the public.

Sun room Dining - Hills & Dales
@Debi Lander

Plan to spend about half a day here including a gift shop that will surely please anyone into horticulture. 
Boxwood Gardens and Fountain - Hills & Dales
@ Debi Lander

Delicious LaGrange

Lafayette Square
Photo @Debi Lander

Our visit to LaGrange also included an early morning stop at Lafayette Square, one of the most beautiful town squares I have encountered. General Lafayette traveled in this area after the Revolutionary War in 1825. He said it reminded him of his home in France; hence the name LaGrange comes from the name of his country estate. 

Taste of Lemon Salad Platter
Photo @Debi Lander

Dining in the Taste of Lemon

Exterior of Restaurant, now a Taste of Lemon
We had lunch at the 1892 Victorian Gothic former church now called Taste of Lemon.  I chose a salad medley which included broccoli salad, carrot/raisin combo, pasta salad, tuna salad, chicken curry, deviled egg and a lime Jell-O mold that I grew up called Under the Sea Salad.  All was yummy.

We also drove around the thriving campus of LaGrange College, the oldest private college in Georgia, and shopped in a few antique and boutique clothing shops. Later, we finished our evening with a dinner theater performance of Big River, by the Lafayette Society of Performing Arts  cast, largely high school students.  The dinner theater is a bring-your-own-affair; really a picnic style meal with many purchasing carry out from downtown restaurants (ours from Venucci was scrumptious. Thank you Laura Jennings). Some had pizza or homemade goodies along with the option to bring your own bottle of wine.  What a terrific idea and way to spend a Saturday night.

The next morning we feasted on breakfast skillets at Gus's Grill, a local's favorite across the street from the government center and courthouse. Then, we were off to see Georgia's Rome.

Shopping in lovely LaGrange
I'm sure Lafayette would agree: La Grange c'est magnifique.

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