Hills & Dales Estate is a must-see on any visit to LaGrange, Georgia. Not only do you get to see one of architect Neel Reid’s greatest works, a 1916 Italian villa, but it’s accompanied by one of the best preserved gardens in the country (“five acres of heaven,” it was once dubbed).
In a way, Hills & Dales Estate acts as a microcosm of the best LaGrange has to offer. That makes it a great starting point to introduce yourself to the area’s history and art. Here are just eight of the many reasons to put Hills & Dales on the top of your list:
Sure, you’ll see their names on buildings and area attractions as you drive around, but it’s easy to forget there are real people attached. Without a doubt, the Callaway family changed the face of the entire state of Georgia by not only developing industry but also supporting cultural, humanitarian and religious causes. Step inside their home and you get a better sense of their love of family and community, and their strong faith.
He’s a feral rescue cat who lives on the property and enjoys meandering through the garden paths with guests. Of course, he must have learned his technique from the human guides who are all incredibly warm, welcoming and eager to share their knowledge.
And that’s saying a lot. Neel Reid is responsible for some of the South’s most iconic properties. He had his hands on most of Ansley Park in Atlanta, Mimosa Hall in Roswell (which became his home), and a version of George Washington’s Mount Vernon across from the governor’s mansion, in addition to hotels, churches, hospitals and libraries. Reid became a friend to the Callaways and took his time to ensure the design really complemented the beautiful Ferrell gardens. The result is a stately mansion high on a hill that somehow manages to have a lived-in look.
They’re all created by resident designer David Brown, using cuttings from the garden. Alice Callaway loved all kinds of flowers, especially white orchids, calla lilies and tropicals. You can view her collection that is still being propagated in the greenhouse today. There’s always something in bloom.
(Find the bloom calendar here to plan your visit.)
As the brochure says, “Walk down garden paths continuously cultivated for over 175 years.” It’s so admired and well done that even other famous family foundations send representatives here to study the great work. P.S. When you’re done, make sure to show brother Cason and wife Virginia some love by visiting their little garden in Pine Mountain, Callaway Gardens.
That’s how the Atlanta Journal described their visit 50 years ago and it’s still incredibly accurate. More than dignified, manicured boxwoods, it’s a spiritual retreat. Finding God in the garden is easy. You’re reminded of His abundance and beauty at every turn. And not just because there are topiaries of a harp and a pulpit. Also, the garden’s faith-based sayings serve as a nice prompt to visit the nearby Biblical History Center. (The Callaway Foundation was instrumental in bringing it to LaGrange.)
The Callaways not only appreciated art but Fuller Jr. also took up painting as a way to relax. You’ll see a landscape he painted in the parlor (ask about the funny story behind it). Callaway took lessons from the famous Lamar Dodd, whose work also appears in the home. He painted a watercolor of the south elevation as a wedding gift and also gave the Callaways a charcoal sketch of sailboats as a thank you gift for a weekend stay. Architect Neel Reid contributed a piece. And, upstairs in the billiards room, there’s a painting by noted folk artist Jean Lake of Troy, Alabama. If this whets your appetite for more art, stop by the LaGrange Art Museum, just down the street.
An article dated March 21, 1992, in the Toronto Star is credited as the first official use of the term “man cave” but just have a look at the third floor game room. Billiards, check. Card table, check. Table tennis, check. OK, they didn’t know about 80″ flat screens back then for those house-divided Georgia v. Georgia Tech games but everything else fits. Oh, and check out the skylights which open to vent when things get a little heated or the cigar smoke is too much.