Wednesday, August 1, 2012

#269: The Oliver Gardens and the Center for History

Many kids read the story of “The Secret Garden”. Mary, an orphan, moves from India to England to live with her distant relatives. She is unhappy, but soon she befriends her crippled cousin and a local farmboy and together they discover the aforementioned secret garden, a wild place full of flowers, broken swings, and imagination. I remember loving the book and subsequently loving the idea of a formal, flowery garden just around the corner.

Part of the formal gardens (plus cameo on the left!)
This might be a heavy-handed segue, forgive me, but I thought of “The Secret Garden” when visiting the Center for History last month. We’ve written about Copshaholm and the West Washington Historic District as a whole previously on this blog, but I have to confess that I, personally, had never spent much time on the Center’s campus. And lo and behold, I found my own secret (or rather unknown) garden. I had been scouting locations for my upcoming South Bend wedding and someone suggested the Oliver Gardens adjacent to the Center for History and attached to Copshaholm. When I visited, it was one of the hottest days in June (we’ve had many more since), and I was immediately charmed by the lush loveliness of the gardens. A green lawn spreads until it reaches a gazebo followed by a stretch of roses in a formal, sunken flowerbed and then the open lawn in front of the mansion. The gardens are in the process of being restored to the original landscaping from 1915 when they were used by the Oliver family for entertaining and relaxing. I can see how enjoyable they must have been as a wealthy family’s backyard. In my opinion, they, themselves, are a reason to make the trip out to West Washington.

The front lawn
And if you do choose to visit, you’ll find yourself with the ability to view much more than the gardens. The Center for History is currently hosting several interesting exhibitions (one called “Gizmos, Corsets, and Concoctions caught my eye) alongside their more permanent ones such as “Girls Who Played Hard Ball” focused on the women’s baseball league that inspired the movie “A League of Their Own”. You’ll also have access to the mansion itself (which we have featured previously). Just make sure to spend some of your summer afternoon in the gardens.

For directions click here.

For more information about the Center for History click here.

For ticket information click here.

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