WHAT’S IN A NAME: Hills & Dales

Published 6:30 pm Saturday, February 25, 2023

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Tucked away in the woods just west of downtown LaGrange lies the sprawling Fuller E. Callaway estate and its renowned gardens, Hills & Dales.

Hills & Dales in LaGrange is the former home of Fuller Earle Callaway and his wife, Ida Cason Callaway. The estate now serves a museum for both history buffs and horticulturalists.

Fuller Earle Callaway purchased the estate of Blount and Sarah Ferrell in 1912, and he had architect Neel Reid design the 13,000-square-foot family home, which was completed in 1916.

Fuller had the home built next to the pre-Civil War Ferrell Gardens started by Nancy Ferrell. The Ferrell gardens, or The Terraces, as they were called at the time, were nationally recognized for their beauty.

Following Ida’s death in 1936, her son Fuller Jr. moved into the property with his wife, Alice Hinman Hand. In 1998, the estate was bequeathed to Fuller E. Callaway Foundation, which was instructed to have the estate became a museum for the enjoyment of the visiting public. 

The former Fuller Callaway family home was then renovated and a visitor’s center was added. The estate officially opened to the public in October 2004. Further renovations were completed in 2010 and all three floors of the home were opened to visitors.

Today, the estate remains a museum of the Callaway family history in LaGrange and its gardens are a national treasure.

Hills & Dales Executive Director Carleton Wood said some changes have been made since the original Ferrell Gardens, but they try to maintain its history.

“We try to be careful and thoughtful about how Sarah laid the garden,” Wood said. “It’s not Carleton’s garden.”

“The garden still has Sarah’s bones and foundations and design. Ida added things when she moved in and her husband, Fuller, also made some changes to the garden,” Wood said. 

They added the curve stone bench, the fountains, some statuary and the greenhouse, he said.

Most of the flowers and other plants grown in the gardens are still very much like they would have originally been in Sarah’s, and later. Ida’s garden. They have tried to honor those legacies, Wood said.

“For example, one of the most popular roses today is the knockout rose, but it’s a very modern, new rose that Sarah, Ida and Alice would have never heard of,” Wood said. “We would not grow that here. We would only grow plants that they had to keep the garden in line with what they did.”

He said they were recently designated as a National Daffodil display garden because they grow mostly old, historic varieties of daffodils.

The Hills & Dales Estate is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday. The estate also frequently hosts community events like the Stories in the Garden for the Azalea Story Telling Festival, gardening education classes, a free community picnic in the spring and a Christmas celebration for kids.

When asked why they changed the name to Hills and Dales, Ida suggested the answer should be obvious.

“We changed the name from Ferrell Gardens to Hills & Dales, since we added over 1,000 acres to the property. If anyone asks us why we named it Hills & Dales, we take them on an automobile ride through the farm, over sunny hills and through shady dales. The questioner answers his own question by saying, ‘The place is appropriately named,’” Ida said.