Eye on KELOLAND: Shakespeare Garden in a small town

Eye on KELOLAND

WESSINGTON SPRINGS, S.D. (KELO) — The Shakespeare Garden and Anne Hathaway Cottage in Wessington Springs sprouted to life almost a century ago after an English professor’s international travels.

Emma Shay had been teaching at the college in Wessington Springs.

“Mrs. Shay went to England in 1926 when she was in her 60s. She went by herself to see the homes of the British authors. She got the idea to have a Shakespeare garden on this campus,” Shakespeare Garden Society President Susan Arnott said.

On Shakespeare’s birthday in 1927 Mrs. Shay, her husband, who was also a professor, students, and others started building a garden in Wessington Springs.

Then in the early 30s, a home, styled after Anne Hathaway’s cottage, was built for the Shays.

“This is more or less a replica of part of the cottage in England,” Arnott said.

The college in Wessington Springs closed in 1964.

Another school operated at the spot until 1968.

Today, the cottage and garden are all that remain of the campus.

Susan Arnott is the President of the Shakespeare Garden Society.

The organization formed in 1989, purchased the property, and restored it.

“Our first weekend when we started cleaning out the garden we took out about 25 pickup loads of branches and weeds and garbage,” Shakespeare Garden Society Historian Brenda Deines said.

But you’d never know that by taking a stroll through the garden today.

“It’s just so peaceful to sit out on the bench and listen to the water splashing from the fountain and the birds singing. It’s just a neat place to collect your thoughts,” Deines said.

Another unique find here is the thatched roof, which was done in the early 90s.

“We think Mrs. Shay wanted it thatched, but it never was,” Arnott said.

The attraction in Wessington Springs has had visitors from all over the world.

“We get motorcycle riders and bike riders. Quite a few people come through here and bring a lot of visiting to this town, so we’re sort of on the map because maybe Shakespeare Garden partially,” Arnott said.

Not only does this place attract people to town, but it also highlights history.

“There are a lot of people who don’t know who Shakespeare is. Yeah, believe it or not. I always mention Anne Hathaway. A lot of us know that Anne Hathaway was his wife, but a lot of people have never heard of her and wonder why is this Anne Hathaway Cottage? I think we bring attention to some culture and some literature from the past that was very important,” Arnott said.

For Arnott, the cottage and garden hold a special place in her heart.

“I just think it’s really important that this place survives and that we keep that memory of the school that meant so much to our community,” Arnott said.

That’s why these women hope to see this small town treasure blooming for years to come.

If you’re interested in touring the cottage or other attractions you can call the Wessington Springs Chamber of Commerce and Development Corporation.

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