Mansfield — Electrical engineer and industrialist Charles Kelly King made a fortune from the high-tech electric vehicles of his day — public streetcars.
Although the country’s electric streetcars and trolleys are mostly gone, King’s legacy continues at Kingwood Center Gardens, a beautiful botanical garden and horticultural showcase at the site of King’s former estate.
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King came to Mansfield, the fourth city in the country to adopt electric streetcars, in 1895 to work for Ohio Brass, which made streetcar fittings and parts. He eventually became company president and built the estate he called Kingwood. He arranged for a private foundation to operate Kingwood for the public after his death in 1952.
Kingwood Center has become a favorite destination for garden lovers from throughout Ohio and beyond, with 47 acres of terraced landscapes, themed gardens, and stunning water features.
The center also features King’s magnificent French Provincial mansion, built in the 1920s and now a museum and event center.
And last year, the center opened the expansive Garden Gateway visitors center, which serves as an entry to the gardens and includes a gift shop, the Gateway Cafe, a banquet facility, and an exhibit area highlighting the legacy of King and Kingwood.
The Garden Gateway leads into the brick paths of a new Terrace Garden with a central fountain and thousands of flowering trees, shrubs and perennials and plenty of places to sit and enjoy the surrounding views. The garden also features plantings and displays that change with the seasons, so there’s always something new to see.
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Also redesigned last year was Kingwood’s Perennial Garden. The new boardwalk entry, over soggy ground, is marked by a pair of bald cypress trees surrounded by moisture-loving plants. The cypress garden then transitions into an English-style rainbow garden, designed to blend colors and textures seamlessly. The Perennial Garden ends at a stylized meadow with plantings of perennials from around the world.
Other garden areas include the Rose Garden with pest- and disease-resistant roses complemented with other woody plants, annuals and perennials; an Herb Garden with a wide variety of culinary, medicinal and ornamental herbs; a Trial Garden that features winning All-America Selection plants; and a quiet, shady and whimsical Woodland Garden.
An allee, originally cut through existing woods when Kingwood Manor was built, today links the Garden Gateway and the 20,000-square-foot manor, which visitors can tour to see the original lush ornamentation, fixtures and furniture.
The manor features more than 40 rooms on three living levels plus basement and attic, 10 bathrooms and 12 individually designed fireplaces.
Surrounding the manor is the estate’s original formal garden, with a circular garden pool, a sunken garden and a more recent trellis garden built where the estate’s swimming pool once was. Visitors will also see the garden’s three large original statues by Czech American artist Anton Vozech.
Other features of Kingwood include a display greenhouse with tropicals, succulents and bromeliads; the estate’s original carriage house, which has been transformed into a meeting and event space with its own terrace garden; and Kingwood’s original duck pond, a favorite for visiting kids — and ducks.
Young visitors (but probably not waterfowl) will also enjoy Peacock Playhouse in the estate’s former Gatehouse, where children and families can explore nature-themed games and activities; and the adjacent Storybook Trail, lined with illustrated panels from author and illustrator Kenard Pak’s “Goodbye Winter, Hello Spring.”
Although you can’t get there by streetcar, Kingwood Center Gardens is less than a two-hour drive from Columbus at 50 N. Trimble Road, Mansfield.
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Kingwood is open daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Admission is $8, free for children 12 and younger. Admission is free for all on the first Monday of each month. For more information call 419-522-0211 or visit www.kingwoodcenter.org.
Steve Stephens is a freelance travel writer and photographer. Email him at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Day trip: Kingwood Center Gardens in Mansfield a 47-acre oasis