Maymont is a 100 acre estate in Richmond, Virginia open to the public to enjoy the grounds, visit the mansion, host an event or tour the petting zoo and wild animal exhibits. The estate at Maymont is a well-preserved example of the mansions built by the American upper class in the Gilded Age. The home is built in the Romanesque and Queen Anne styles and is lavishly detailed.
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The 33-room 12,000 square foot home was named May Mont, a combination of owner Sallie Dooley’s maiden name and the French word for hill. The home is rare in that it was opened to the public almost immediately after the death of the Dooley’s, thus leaving many of their personal belongings intact, and offering visitors a clear view of how millionaires in the early 20th century lived their lives. A permanent exhibit on the first floor explores the relationship between the owners and their servants, and rich and poor citizens of Richmond at the time the Dooley’s lived in the home. Upstairs, the home offers a relatively untouched collection of furnishings, décor and the personal belongings of the Dooley’s. Aside from the home, there are over 25 structures including garden buildings, carriage houses, bridges, gazebos, and the Dooley’s mausoleum throughout the estate. These historic preserved structures are examples of Doric temple architecture and Victorian, Adirondack and Italian Neoclassical design. The landscapes and gardens of the estate are very much as the Dooley’s left them. The diverse grounds range from rose gardens, to rocky cliffs, to streams and expansive lawns. A student of horticulture, Sallie Dooley did much of the landscape design work herself, along side the United States’ best landscape architects and a team of over 20 groundskeepers. Formal gardens include the Italian Garden, a formal Victorian garden incorporating many stone structures such as gazebos and statuary with formal plantings. The fountains, the geometrically planted beds, and the play between sun and shade are all components of the classical ideal. The Japanese Garden is by contrast a naturalistic, cool and shaded space. The Japanese garden is believed to have been designed by Muto, a Japanese gardener working on the east coast of the US in the early 1900’s. The garden was renovated by Earth Design Inc. in 1978. Smaller specialty gardens are not original to the estate but add to the appeal. These gardens include a butterfly trail, herb and vegetable garden, Daylily and Daffodil display and Virginia native garden. Maymont’s Wetland Habitat occupies the lowlands near the Children’s Farm and offers a diverse ecosystem suited for the feeding and nesting of wildlife. Maymont is home to many animals, including some rare and endangered species. A Nature Center contains over 30,000 gallons of exhibit space for reptiles, amphibians, and the popular North American River Otters. Outdoor wildlife exhibits showcase animals native to the area such as bears, bald eagles, bison, deer and wildcats.
History: Richmond-born financier James Dooley and his wife Sallie lived at Maymont from 1893 through 1925. The Dooley’s purchased the 100 acre former dairy farm on the banks of the James River in 1886 and proceeded to landscape the countryside and build the home, which was completed in 1893. The architect was Edgerton Stewart Rogers (1860-1901), born and educated in Rome. When Sallie Dooley passed in 1925, there were no heirs and the home was immediately gifted to the City of Richmond. Maymont opened as a public estate just six months later, with the grounds and the home intact, including all of the Dooley’s personal belongings. The non-profit Maymont Foundation was formed in 1975 to take on stewardship of the property for the City of Richmond, as well as to raise funds for its ongoing care. The Foundation undertook what was the first major renovation of the home in the 1970’s. Maymont is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Ongoing Programs and Education: The estate hosts a number of educational programs through the home and gardens. Special tours are available for scout groups, schools and others. Animal Encounters at the Nature Center offer public fish feeding, snapping turtle feeding, and an alligator presentation. The Maymont Farm offers a children’s petting zoo, and behind-the-scenes tours for close-up interactions with the animals. VIP Animal Adventures and Training Adventures take guests behind-the-scenes of the Wildcat exhibit and on a golf-cart tour to see bears, bald eagles and other wildlife on the estate. Annual events include Spring Break at the estate, offering a series of outdoor family games and programs. Herbs Galore and More is a Saturday market held each spring with local vendors, a food court, gardening workshops and family activities. Victorian Holidays runs November through December each year and offers caroling, wreath-making workshops, holiday markets, and special tours of the home.
1700 Hampton Street Richmond, Virginia 23220, Phone: 804-358-7166