Alongside the eastern portion of Highway SD-34 sits the quiet town of Wessington Springs, South Dakota. If you’re paying attention, you might notice a roadside sign promoting the town’s Shakespeare Garden & Anne Hathaway Cottage.
Emma Shay, a Wessington Spring resident and an English teacher at the local seminary, founded the garden and cottage after traveling through England. After borrowing $1,000, Shay, who was in her 60s at the time, traveled alone throughout the United Kingdom to learn more about the British writers she taught in her classes.
Along the way, she gathered grasses, flowers, leaves, and other flora from the homes of literary giants, like William Shakespeare. When she returned to South Dakota, Shay compiled the natural artifacts into a portfolio, which she then sold to help pay back her debts. During her travels, Shay was inspired to start a Shakespeare Garden on the grounds of Wessington Springs College.
After Shay and her husband, science professor Clark Shay, retired in 1932, the pair drew up plans to build a replica of Anne Hathaway Cottage, the family home of William Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway. The plans were based on a picture postcard Emma had bought on her travels.
Together, the Shays continue to expand the gardens surrounding the cottage. To the west of the cottage, the pair built and tended a terraced garden. Later, in 1938, a lily pond was added. Then, in 1941, students helped build a wishing well on the property.
Wessington Springs College was disbanded in 1964, and the buildings were demolished in 1970. But the city and many volunteers have continued to maintain this glorious corner of the once-proud campus.
A vast array of flowers, ornamental plants, towering trees, fountains, and paths, make the Shakespeare Garden and Anne Hathaway Cottage a delightful treasure to visit in this small South Dakota town.
Know Before You Go
There is no admission fee. Hours of operation are during the daylight.
There's a sort of unpaved lot immediately to the south of the garden, which seems intended for parking.