The Maymont estate in the heart of Richmond was once just a symbol of the excesses of America’s Gilded Age, but it has become so much more for residents of the city and beyond. Spring is a great time to visit the estate and take advantage of the gardens in bloom. In honor of the season we take a look at all that Maymont has to offer.
The property that would become Maymont was purchased by James and Sallie Dooley in 1896. Construction on the mansion was completed in 1893. The couple were in their forties and had no children. Sallie Dooley devoted a huge amount of time and resources to cultivating the 100-acre estate. The inside of the house, too, was painstakingly decorated and filled with treasures from around the world.
When Mrs. Dooley died in 1925, she bequeathed the entire estate to the City of Richmond. Maymont was kept very much as it was during the Dooleys’ lives and was opened to the public as a park and museum. Since 1975, the nonprofit Maymont Foundation has taken responsibility for the estate, including maintenance and fundraising. Maymont’s upkeep is funded by donations and grants.
The Dooley’s mansion was designed by architect Edgerton Stewart Rogers. The completed home is 12,000 square feet and contains 33 rooms. A guided tour is available of 12 rooms on the first and second floors, featuring restored furnishings and items from the Maymont Collection. Additionally, eight rooms in the servants area belowstairs are also open for self-guided tours.
In addition to the main house, the Maymont estate is also home to 25 other buildings and architectural features, including a mausoleum, bridges, gates, and more.
THE GARDENS AND GROUNDS
The gardens and grounds of Maymont were a labor of love for Sallie Dooley. Throughout her life on the estate, she worked with her estate manager and a veritable army of groundskeepers to create a beautiful and unique oasis.
The Italian Garden is modeled after the Italian classical style. It features statuary and stonework, geometric flowerbeds, and multiple levels with sweeping views of the estate. The abundant flowers are not typical of the Italian style, but represent the Victorian preferences of the gardens creators.
The Japanese Garden was originally designed in 1911 by a master Japanese gardener. The garden as it exists today covers a larger area than the original. Much of the original design was lost to time and overgrowth. The redesigned garden features many recognizable elements of Japanese gardens, including a koi pond, arched bridge, and trained and shaped trees.
The grounds of Maymont comprise an extensive arboretum featuring over 200 species of trees, both native to Virginia and imported by the Dooleys. The arboretum at Maymont was recognized as one of America’s notable tree collections in 1986.
There are a number of other specialty gardens, including an herb garden, vegetable garden, and wetland habitat. Some of these gardens were included in the original estate design while others have been added over time.
Maymont’s natural beauty doesn’t stop with the gardens. The estate is home to a wide array of animals. The Children’s Farm is home to a number of traditional farm animals such as horses, ducks, and rabbits. The wildlife exhibits include black bears, bison, bobcats, bald eagles, owls, and more.
Visit the Maymont website for details of visiting hours for the house and grounds as well as the many special events and exhibitions taking place throughout the season. Maymont is free to the public, and donations are gratefully accepted.
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