Six acres of the prettiest gardens you’ll ever see lie inconspicuously
along Memorial Drive in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, on the shore of Lake
The gardens began life innocuously enough. Mrs. Ruth West and her
gardener started spading a former streetcar right of way in the early
1930s, planting several hundred tulips – plus 70 Colorado spruce trees
along the north and west borders as windbreaks that still stand today.
Although the house and gardens were started in 1934, additions
were frequent; by the 1950s, Mrs. West had more than 30,000 tulips
gracing her property. The gardens slowly evolved to feature a Rose
Garden, Japanese Garden and Sunken Garden. The house itself is
reminiscent of the modernistic styles of Walter Gropius and Frank Lloyd
Wright; dubbed the “Shoebox Estate” by locals, the gardens were referred
to as “West of the Lake” by Mrs. West.
The gardens are a spectacular show of color from May to
October; thanks to the Ruth S. John and John Dunham West Foundation, the
public can enjoy the display. Just be sure to travel by dinghy; the
smallish entrance and parking lot aren’t recommended for RVs (a nearby
lot can accommodate motorhomes).
For more information, call (920) 684-6110.