I visited a Gilded Age mansion this summer. Here, in Richmond, Virginia. Maymont is a 100-acre estate owned by James and Sallie Dooley. When they died, in the 1920’s, they bequeathed it to Richmond as a park and museum. Within six months, it was opened to the public to is easily enjoyed by all of us.
Until this summer, it was an unexplored treasure. My only visits to Maymont were for picnics on the grassy knoll in front of the mansion. That in itself is a relaxing, restoring experience, just basking in the lovely green sun and shade of the grounds.
This summer, I got to know Maymont as it should be known…through the happy association with a family, new to Richmond. Through a staycation, , and deliberate fascination, they have explored the area to really know their new city. I got to come along for some of those outings and this is my favorite so far.
The grounds were designed by Mrs. Dooley. There are several specialty gardens. Two in particular stand out: The Italian garden with its columned and stony walkways, roses, and waterfalls make it a familiar photo spot for engagement pictures.
In previous visits to Maymont, just staying on the edge of the park, on that grassy knoll with friends and family, was sweet in itself. It is a lesson for me, though, how much we miss if we don’t dive deeper into the treasure of such a place.
Then we toured the Victorian country estate home of Mr. and Mrs. Dooley. Although much smaller in scale than the post-Edwardian home seen in the PBS series Downton Abbey, it reminded me of that era. To enter the Dooley mansion, you enter through the servants’ quarters below. The contrast of post-Civil War servants’ life and that of Mr. and Mrs. Dooley and their guests was remarkable. Yet in both, you see touches of beauty and utility, with glimpses into the loves and habits of these who shared life together. The furnishings are all original, the house left intact to the City of Richmond.
You just need to see it. I’ll share a few pictures, but the tour, with knowledgeable and accommodating guide, was fascinating.
So there you go…just a taste of Maymont. Hope you can include this in your waning summer plans. Or a weekend in the Fall.
What a gift, among so many others, Mr. and Mrs. Dooley, true benefactors and patrons, gave to all who came after them.