Paul Pfeifer, Managing Director of Hidden Lake Gardens, shared with the audience the history and various exhibits on display at the 755 acre complex in Tipton (Irish Hills region) since the property was purchased in 1926 by philanthropist Harry Fee and now currently owned by Michigan State University.
Paul has been at the Gardens, he said, since September of 2014 and prior to that he was the manager of the Draime Estate Gardens on the campus of Kent State University. He is married to his wife, Vickie, and they have three grown children and live in Dundee. Paul is relatively new to this area since he is a native of Indiana but once they sell their home in Ohio, they have plans to move into Lenawee County.
He calls the Gardens a “wonderful gem”. Many people, he said, have very fond memories of and have had many personal encounters at Hidden Lake Gardens from having been engaged or married there, were or are still bicyclers and cross country skiers.   
Paul gave a brief chronology of the Gardens and its exhibits and rich history over the past 90 years:
  • 1926 – Harry Fee purchased HLG consisting
  • 1945 – Harry pledge to donate HLG to MSU
  • 1962 – The first adjacent property was acquired along M50 which is now the 120 acre arboretum, the shrub and lilac collection
  • 1965 – The Visitor Center was designed and built from funding by the Herrick family
  • 1968 – The Conservatory Complex opened thanks again to the generous donation of the Herrick’s
  • 1981 – The Harper Collection opened
  • 1989 – The Hosta Park became a reality
  • 2000 – The Bonsai Courtyard was opened
  • 2007 – The Bonsai Studio was opened
  • 2008 – The Elardo Garden around the Visitor Center was opened
  • 2010 – The Arid Dome was replanted
  • 2014 – The Tropical Dome area was renovated
Harry Fee’s original intent back in 1926, Paul said, was to start a farm but the topography of the land and composition of the soil was not conducive for that so he started a nursery instead. He further developed and designed the property as time went by.
Paul shared with us the Garden’s 5-pronged Mission Statement:
  1. Our mission is to maintain and improve Hidden Lake Gardens for the benefit and education of the public.
  2. To instill an appreciation of plants, gardens, landscapes and the natural environment.
  3. To display collections of plants that are of horticultural, botanical and aesthetic value to the public and professionals of various disciplines.
  4. To interpret the collections and grounds and utilize them for the educational benefit of the public.
  5. To preserve an undeveloped area of the scenic Irish Hills, providing a place of beauty and inspiration for public enjoyment.
HLG, he said, will be celebrating its 70th anniversary this year since the donation of HLG to MSU but they have decided to wait for their 75th to commemorate it with any kind of a major celebration. Sam Rye pointed out to the audience that when he served as Mayor, he suggested using the Fee Estate funds Harry’s wife, Harriet, left to the City of Adrian (corpus in 2005 totaled $20M!) to purchase the Fee home which sits directly across from Fee Park on S. Main Street but he could not get the rest of the Commission to go along with him unfortunately.