LaGRANGE — A grand Southern home will soon begin a great centennial celebration.
Hills & Dales Estate, the historic home of the Fuller E. Callaway family in LaGrange, turns 100 years old in 2016.
Centennial festivities kick off Jan. 5 with an illustrated lecture, reception and book-signing for a new biography, “Fuller E. Callaway: Portrait of a New South Citizen,” by historians Buckner and Carol Melton. The book details Callaway’s unlikely success story: from poor but enterprising Troup County farm boy to internationally prominent business leader and philanthropist.
The lecture and reception, from 6:30-8 p.m. in the Visitor Center, are free, but reservations are needed and can be made by calling 706-882-3242.
After decades of modest living, Fuller and Ida Cason Callaway introduced their grand new home in June, 1916 with a gala housewarming celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. Throngs lined up for first glimpses of the 30-room villa designed by renowned architects Hentz and Reid and set atop a gentle hill overlooking the lushly terraced, 5-acre garden created by Sarah Ferrell in the 19th century.
Newspapers of the day proclaimed Hills & Dales “as perfect as any home in the South, new or old,” and an Atlanta Journal headline reminded readers of what came first: “Italian Villa Built in Georgia’s Most Famous Garden.”
Today, Hills & Dales is operated by the Callaway Foundation as a historic house and garden museum. Visitors can tour every room without ropes or barriers and stroll the same garden paths created generations ago.
Centennial parties, performances, presentations and programs will continue all year, highlighted by a “Picnic in the Gardens” on May 7 with pony rides and tethered hot-air balloons and the Oct. 16 “Stories in the Garden,” featuring entertainer Fred Newman, a LaGrange native. Both events are free.
The 1916 anniversary celebration will be marked by free admission to both house and garden on June 4 and 5, including a centennial flower show featuring local garden clubs.
Georgia first lady Sandra Deal has been invited to participate in an Oct. 4 lecture, and the grand finale will be an expanded Christmas celebration, featuring period decorations and a scaled gingerbread replica of the mansion.
There is much to celebrate.
Architectural historian William Mitchell called Hills & Dales “a landmark of the American Renaissance.” The distinctive interior, crafted by artisans from around the world, glows with warmth, character and charm. The furnishings — art, antiques and family heirlooms — are as they were during the Callaway residency. And the meticulously-maintained gardens, which date to 1832, remain among the South’s most important and impressive pre-Civil War landscapes.
Hills & Dales Estate, gloriously preserved, is beautifully prepared to enter its second century.
For information on visiting Hills and Dales, or for details of centennial events, see hillsanddales.org.
Reach the LaGrange Dail News at 706-884-7311.