Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Home on the Hill

Magnet # 115: Maymount House Photo

Material: Metal, Paper, Mylar Shell

Purchased By: Me

Well, we're almost halfway through December, and I haven't really even mentioned Christmas and the Holiday season yet. While I don't have enough magnets that tie into this time of year to do a theme for the entire month as I did with scary magnets in October, I think there's a sufficient amount to fill in for the remainder of the time until the 25th.

I didn't realize this one was a Christmas magnet when I bought it earlier this year, I just thought the red sky was a nice departure from the typical blue ones. Only later did I realize there are little Christmas wreaths all along the windows of the bottom floor at Maymount. I'd never heard of this 100 acre estate before my Mid-Atlantic trip, and it wasn't a must see on my list, but I'm so glad I visited there. Honestly, the main reason I stopped by was because I got to Richmond around four on a Saturday, and not many other tourist stops were going to be open after five. Plus, Maymount just sounded like an interesting spot to visit. When I got there, I had a difficult time figuring out just where I was going, so I called up their main number to get help finding my way from an employee. I think I took every wrong turn available through their maze of streets, but she was incredibly patient and stayed on the line with me until I was in the Visitor's Center parking lot. The call must have been around ten minutes long. When I got in, I sheepishly asked one of the ladies behind the counter if she'd been the one I'd talked to and she said yes. Turns out she once led someone there from the Interstate. She and her co-worker encouraged me to head over to Maymount House before the last tour of the day was given. I hurried there, which wasn't easy because of all the hills, and managed to get there in time. There was a suggested donation of 5 dollars to tour the house, and I went ahead and paid. I hadn't really had any plan to tour the house and no idea what it would be like, but as soon as we got inside, I was amazed.

Really, the best word to describe the interior of the Maymount House is opulent. I was simply overwhelmed by the beautiful furnishings in it. It was built in 1893 by Mr. and Mrs. James Dooley, an extremely wealthy couple. James Dooley was an attorney with a number of successful business dealings, and his wife Sally was from a prosperous Southern family. They named their home "May" after her maiden name and "Mount," the French term for a hill. As they had no children, they were able to focus on perfecting their home. They filled it with furnishings from all over the globe, as was fashionable during their time. Every ceiling was given an individual decorating scheme - some were painted, some cofferred, but all had an distinctive touch. A stained glass window by Tiffany himself graced the stairwell, and Mrs. Dooley's room had a swan bed. When the couple finally passed, they chose to leave their incredible estate to the City of Richmond. Realizing what a gem they had, they opened Maymount to the public within a year, and faithfully maintained it, until they handed it over to the Maymount Foundation, which has maintained and repaired it. Because this home has passed through so few hands, it's almost exactly the same as it was when the Dooleys lived there. Nearly all of the furnishings are the same, and for anyone interested in touring an authentic Gilded Age mansion, this is one of the best examples available. Visitors can both see what life was like then for the privileged and their servants.

I am so pleased that I was able to visit Maymount and encourage anyone heading to Richmond to see it as well. Not only does it have the Maymount house itself, but it also has a Nature Center with a host of animals, a petting zoo for children, and extensive grounds with several gardens, including a Japanese one with a waterfall and Koi pond. It's perfect for both parents and children. Currently, there are Holiday tours being given at the estate, with Christmas trees and festive decorations all from the Victorian era. When I was there, they were featuring a Mourning in the Age of Poe tour with items that tied into the Victorian mourning process. Because I was there for the last tour of the day, there were quite a few people there, and I was dismayed that I couldn't see everything clearly. But one really cool moment happened that I wouldn't have seen on an earlier tour - an actor arrived in full Victorian attire for an evening event and passed by our tour. It was really something to see someone dressed in clothes of the time walking around the house. And, yes, you might not run into someone like that if you ever tour Maymount. But don't let that stop you - this is a gorgeous place to visit and should not be missed, particularly at this time of the year.


  1. Maymount sounds like a lovely place. It is unusual for the home to have all the original furnishings. I'd like to see the place someday.