Friday, October 21, 2011

A Mystery Garden

On my birthday my two daughters and I went to the nearby college town of Hillsdale to have lunch and attend an art exhibit. We had a little lunch at a quaint coffee shop on the historic main street.

Before we left, Katie found this sign on the hallway door that led to the restrooms. We were intrigued by the idea of a secret garden so decided to check it out.

It seemed unlikely that we would find any kind of a garden at the end of this nondescript hallway in the middle of October but we were game to take a look.

We were so glad we did. Because....yes....there was a secret garden behind the door!

Our jaws dropped when we found a vine-covered courtyard with crumbling brick walls and a circle of ancient cobblestone.

The walls and beams overhead where covered by decades of ivy growth. The architecture had a distinct European style. To me it felt like we had walked through a portal into an Italian village.

In the center of it all was a massive wisteria vine. We had noticed the wisteria hanging on the outside wall where we parked the car on the street. I even photographed it but because of some camera glitches I don't have photos to share. I noticed the unique style of the building immediately when we parked in town. It was not very farm-townish. The street side wall outside is also covered with ivy and hanging wisteria but no one, I have learned not even the townspeople, seems to give a thought to the source of those wisteria branches. The source is this trunk hidden in this courtyard and accessible only down that hallway from the coffee shop.

It has no doubt grown here for decades. There are numerous pieces of steel- posts and implements and bars- that must have been added for support during the vine's lifetime but are now embedded deeply among the twisting tangle of branches.

It was a beautiful sight in the dim autumn light and I can only imagine the stunning splendor of the spring bloom of this massive vine.
I know there must be an interesting story behind this place. Who built that building in this middle American farm town with a style so different from the rest of the buildings? Did that person also plan this special courtyard and plant that vine? How long has it been here?

I asked some questions of the locals while we were in town and no one knew a thing about this place. I even called the local historical society and they also didn't know anything about it. The person I spoke to had never seen the hidden courtyard. The historical society is one block away from this spot. I hope I sparked an interest for her to walk out her door and check it out. It is worth the trip.


  1. I'd love to know the history behind that spot, too. If you ever find out you're going to have to let us know. A beautiful surprise. Still praying for that baby to arrive soon.

  2. I lived and worked in Hillsdale years ago. It was a sweet little town, and I've been to the cafe you had lunch in (and asked for provolone cheese for my sandwich and they'd never heard of it!) - but had no idea that the secret garden was there!

    It was my first foray away from the West Coast when I lived there and imagine my shock and surprise to find horse and buggy parking at the local bank! WOW! I loved it there - so beautiful! Some of the grand old houses in town just the stuff dreams are made of! :)

  3. Wow! Really! What a small, small world.
    Yes, the houses in the town are spectacular. This town has quite a history and the college is the centerpiece. It is tragic that you went to the cafe but didn't see the wisteria vine. It really is secret and hidden. Many long time local residents haven't seen it either apparently.


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