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Estates of the wealthy become public destinations

Estates of the wealthy become public destinations

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Of the gardens featured in the United States Postal Service's new pane of American Garden stamps, four were started as public initiatives and the remaining six were the estates of wealthy entrepreneurs.

Here is some information on those gardens.

The Huntington, San Marino, California 

This site is known simply as "The Huntington" because in addition to its 120 acres of gardens, it is an educational and research institution based on its library collections and art museum.

It was established by Henry E. Huntington (1850–1927) and Arabella Huntington (c.1851–1924) .

Gardens include Japanese, Chinese and desert landscapes.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Brooklyn, New York

Founded in 1910 in Mount Prospect Park, central Brooklyn, the 52-acre garden holds more than 14,000 taxa of plants. Specialty areas include a bonsai museum, three climate-themed plant pavilions and a white cast-iron-and-glass aquatic plant house.

Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens, Akron, Ohio

The crown jewel of this 70-acre site is a sprawling, 64,500-square-foot manor house built between 1912 and 1915 for F. A. Seiberling, co-founder of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., and his wife, Gertrude. It is one of the largest homes in the United States.

The Seiberlings named the estate "Stan Hywet" from the Old English meaning "stone quarry" or "stone hewn," to reflect the site's earlier use.

Originally about 1,500 acres, the estate was designed by Boston landscape architect Warren H. Manning, and remains one of the finest examples of his work.

Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C.

This historic estate in the Georgetown neighborhood was the residence and garden of Robert Woods Bliss (1875–1962) and his wife Mildred. They gave it along with their research library and collection to Harvard University in 1940.

The garden is a 27-acre naturalistic stream side valley park, maintained as a part of Rock Creek Park. It opened to the public in 1939. 

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, Boothbay, Maine

Land for what is now the largest botanical garden in New England, including nearly a mile of tidewater shoreline, was purchased in 1996 by a grassroots organization of Maine residents.

The 295-acre site opened in 2007, with 17 acres of gardens featuring plants native to Maine. The visitor center opened in 2018.

The Chicago Botanic Garden

This 385-acre living plant museum is situated on nine islands in the Cook County Forest Preserves. It features 27 display gardens in four natural habitats: woods, prairie, river corridor and lakes-and-shores.

The garden is owned by the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, and managed by the Chicago Horticultural Society. It conserves rare plant species and works with other organizations for plant conservation.

Located at 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe, it is a partner in the Seeds of Success project, a branch of the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership managed by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. The goal is to collect 10,000 seeds from each of 1,500 native species of the Midwest for conservation and restoration efforts. 

Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library, Winterthur, Delaware

The former home of Henry Francis du Pont (1880–1969), a renowned antiques collector, horticulturalist and member of the prominent industrialist family, houses one of the most important collections of Americana in the United States.

Designed in the spirit of 18th- and 19th-century European country houses, Winterthur is situated on 979 acres near Brandywine Creek, with 60 acres  of naturalistic gardens. 

Winterthur is a Swiss city that was a du Pont family ancestral home.

Biltmore Estate, Asheville, North Carolina

Built in the late 1800s as the summer home of George W. Vanderbilt, the estate's most notable feature is a French Renaissance mansion that is considered the largest private residence in the United States.

Designed by Richard Morris Hunt, the 250-room residence with a floor area of about four acres took six years to complete. 

The surrounding grounds were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted who also designed Central Park in New York City. 

A three-mile lane leading to the mansion was laid out to convey that the estate was a retreat.

In addition to numerous gardens, Olmsted also established the first managed forest in the United States on the estate, hiring Gifford Pinchot  and later Carl Alwin Schenck as professional foresters.

Grandson of railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt, George Vanderbilt died in 1914. Today the estate is about 8,000 acres. The mansion first opened to the public in 1930.

Alfred B. Maclay State Gardens, Tallahassee, Florida

These gardens are part of a U.S. historic district known as the Killearn Plantation Archeological and Historic District, containing 18 historic buildings.

In 1923, New York financier Alfred Barmore Maclay (1871–1944) purchased an existing estate and renamed it Killearn. Both he and his wife developed gardens and, in 1946, they were opened to the public.

The backbone of the 300-plus acres are azaleas and camellias. Trees include bald cypress, black gum, dogwood, hickory, holly, Japanese maple, oak, plum and redbud.

Norfolk Botanical Garden, Virginia

In 1938, Norfolk City Manager Thomas P. Thompson and Frederic Heutte, a young horticulturalist, believed that Norfolk could support an azalea garden to rival those of Charleston, S.C., which even during the Depression years, drew thousands of tourists annually.

The city of Norfolk provided them with a 75-acre site of high, wooded ground and another 75 acres of the Little Creek Reservoir to establish a city garden.

A group of more than 200 African American women and 20 men were assigned to the project under the Works Progress Administration.

Laboring from dawn until dusk, the crew cleared dense vegetation and carried the equivalent of 150 truck loads of dirt by hand to build a levee for the lake.

By March of 1939, 4,000 azaleas, 2,000 rhododendrons, 100 bushels of daffodils and thousands of other miscellaneous shrubs and trees had been planted.

Today's 175-acres includes more than 60 themed gardens, including Japanese, desert, colonial and rose, can be viewed by tram, boat or by foot.

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