Applewood: The Charles Stewart Mott Estate is both beautiful and practical—a physical expression of what the Mott family valued: healthy living, inspiration found in beauty, learning and education, and having fun with family and friends.
Charles Stewart Mott built Applewood in 1916 as a family home and gentleman’s farm. Today, it’s a vital community resource open to all thanks to the perseverance of Ruth Rawlings Mott, wife of C.S. Mott and a philanthropist in her own right.
As the story goes, Mr. Mott had advised Ruth Mott not to put a penny into Applewood after he was gone and to tear it down when she was done with it—but Ruth Mott had a vision for the home they shared for 38 years. It was her desire that the estate eventually be opened to the public to honor Mr. Mott’s legacy and his contributions to Flint and the automotive industry. With help and input from community members, she began an ambitious project to restore the estate to its former glory.
Ruth supported numerous projects during her lifetime, and endowed the Ruth Mott Foundation to continue her family’s commitment to improving life in the Flint area. Applewood was transferred to the Foundation upon Ruth Mott’s death and, guided by her vision, became an essential part of the Foundation’s philanthropic work.
In addition to the Jacobean-style home with an attached greenhouse, the 34-acre estate includes an apple orchard with 29 heirloom varieties, vibrant gardens, a gatehouse, barn, and chicken coop. Applewood was granted a listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 and received a Michigan Historic Marker in its centennial year.
In 2015, we began preparing to celebrate Applewood’s 100-year anniversary the following year. The Foundation held community focus groups (in alignment with our commitment to community engagement) to collect residents’ input on the centennial festivities. Through the feedback, the Foundation gained more guidance on how best to make Applewood serve and support community priorities.
The voices of community members were heard loud and clear: In 2016, the Ruth Mott Foundation opened Applewood more than ever before with weekly visitor hours, new events, and new interactive exhibits throughout the estate. Our talented horticulture staff made Applewood as beautiful as it has ever been, and guests responded favorably to the vibrant, ever-changing gardens. The Mott family home was opened for public tours for the first time in Applewood’s history, adding to the public’s sense of history and the many dimensions of life at Applewood over the last century. The centennial year was also the 15th anniversary of Applewood’s signature event, Fall Harvest Festival, which celebrated record attendance and new partnerships.
The Mott family is not only known for their entrepreneurial spirit, but also for their playful humor and gracious hospitality. The centennial celebration provided an opportunity for anyone, free of charge, to learn about how the Mott family lived at Applewood and what they held dear. Staff designed a centennial celebration that would not only share Applewood’s history but also engage visitors in contemplating community and the role they play in shaping it. And, perhaps most importantly, Applewood has become a cherished community resource where families can make memories of their own as they explore Applewood’s history and its relationship with the Mott’s chosen home community of Flint.
To commemorate the centennial, the Foundation published a collection of stories about Applewood and the family who lived there. “Applewood: One Hundred Years of Stories, 1916-2016,” contains more than 250 new and historic photos, and reveals details of the private lives of the very public Mott family — much of it told in their own words.
Other highlights of the centennial celebration included:
Guided by Ruth Mott’s vision, Applewood is continuing to become a place where people from all parts of our community feel comfortable and welcome. Where they have fun, where knowledge is expanded, and where learning is a joy.