2201 Shield Lakes Drive
In 1893, Major James H. Dooley, a wealthy Richmond lawyer and philanthropist, along with his wife, Sallie, completed this elaborate estate in Richmond, Virginia on a 100-acre site overlooking the James River.
The house was occupied until Sallie May Dooley’s death in 1925, her husband had predeceased her in 1922. After their deaths, Maymont was left to the city of Richmond and opened as a museum just six months after Mrs. Dooley’s death. It did not fare well under the guise of the city. The upper floors’ interiors and a large original collection remained relatively untouched, uncleaned, and unprotected. In 1970 a foundation was formed, and now the palatial home, while still owned by the city, is run and funded by the foundation.
Maymont was named for Major Dooley’s wife, Sallie May. “May Mont,” combines Mrs. Dooley’s maiden name and the French word for hill. Construction on this Romanesque style, Victorian Age, building began in early 1879 but came to a stop early on. Construction began again in 1890, with the mansion completed in 1893.
The 12,000 square foot, 33 room home was designed by Roman born and educated architect, Edgeton S. Rogers. The home was originally to be granite with a red slate roof to match its pink Montana marble columns and its hundreds of pink roses planted about the grounds. The exterior, however, is made of Ohio Sandstone, and the red slate roof was replaced with black slate by the City of Richmond in the 1960s.
James Dooley descended from a successful Richmond family that had immigrated from Ireland. Sallie May was the daughter of a prominent and long-standing Virginia family. Their varied tastes and backgrounds are reflected in the home.
Mrs. Dooley’s bedroom is one of the highlights of the tour. The entire room is themed in swans. These furnishings were originally in their summer home, Swannanoa, on Afton Mountain in Virginia. The bed is carved poplar by Newman and Company of Manhattan.
The Normandy-style Carriage House (built of James River granite), the three-storied Stone Barn and the Water Tower were designed by Noland and Baskervill and constructed in the early 20th century. Arrayed along a high ridge, this village-like assemblage of outbuildings would have been visible to guests entering along the magnolia-lined drive. These buildings have been adaptively renovated as public spaces and for institutional use.
Childless, the Dooley’s were big philanthropists. Not only did they give the estate to Richmond, but upon their death, several sizable bequests: $500,000 to the Crippled Children’s Hospital, $500,000 to the Richmond Public Library and $250,000 to the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. Upon her death, Ms. Dooley designated that her jewels be sold to benefit Episcopal missions, this included a 10 carat diamond and a considerable amount of Tiffany designed jewelry.
The grounds and gardens are open Daily
Admission is Free
The Mansion is open
Guided tours on the hour and half-hour; last tour begins at 4:30pm.
$5 per person suggested donation