For our first stop during our 3 week road trip, my daughters and I visited Maymont in Richmond, Virginia. When conducting my usual Google research, Maymont came up as a Japanese Garden center and since my youngest was registered to take the SAT in Richmond the next morning, I decided a peaceful botanical garden offered the “zen”, pre-test afternoon we would all desire.
We left Pennsylvania on a Friday morning and the three of us drove to Maymont–which surprise–was SOOOOOOOO much more than a Japanese Garden! We hope to go back some day soon because we did not even scratch the surface. In fact, we stayed after closing–until we were kicked off the property. LOL
What is Maymont? A quick historical lesson:
Maymont is the American estate of Mr. James Henry Dooley and Mrs. Sallie May Dooley. The couple purchased the 100 acre property in 1886 and lived there from 1893 to 1925. Nestled up to the banks of the James River, Maymont showcases a beautiful mansion, and a gorgeous collection of pathways, bridges, gardens, and scenic landscapes. The land also features twenty-five other preserved historic buildings, gazebos, a mausoleum and a nature center.
Mr. and Mrs. Dooley had no children and when Mrs. Dooley died in 1925, (Mr. Dooley passed in 1922), she gave the entire estate to the city of Richmond. Within six months, it became a museum and park. Due to the lack of heirs, the mansion is relatively untouched and offers an authentic example of American estates built during the Gilded Age in the south.
**Fun Fact: Maymont was named after Mrs. Dooley’s maiden name, “May”, and the French word for hill, which is “mont”.
During the late 1870’s through the 1910’s, the Gilded Age movement filled the country with elaborate homes, treasures from around the world and created a society obsessed with status. The post-reconstruction era focused on the opulent expression of great wealth, pushing aside the serious social issues of the time.
**Fun Fact: The term “Gilded Age” was coined by Mark Twain.
Maymont, built by architect Edgerton Stewart Rogers, boasts 12,000 sq. ft. with 33 rooms and today, twelve restored rooms on the first and second floor and eight rooms below, can be viewed as a significant and realistic example of life during these times.
My daughters and I walked through the nature center and wandered around the property until we accidentally found the mansion. Several informational posters hang from the gates and after reading a few, I knew we needed to take the guided tour of the interior.
The guided tour was everything I hoped it would be–thorough and informative. The guide, though knowledgeable, was rude, condescending, abrasive and sexist. Her behavior tarnished our experience and made my children very uncomfortable. However, my girls were able to learn quite a bit about daily life, society and social expectations of the early 1900’s (and how not to act in the early 2000’s). Everything (positive and negative) can be a learning experience. 🙂
Maymont is located at 2201 Shields Lake Drive, Richmond, Virginia, 23220.
Plan to visit the Maymont mansion and historic buildings, the nature and visitor center, gardens and arboretum, children’s farm and wildlife exhibit. Visitors can expect to spend the entire day exploring.
The grounds, gardens and farm are free to the public and are open 10:00 am to 5:00 pm during October to March and are open until 7:00 pm from April to September.
The nature center is $4 for adults and $3 for children.
The mansion has a “suggested” donation of $5 a person, but the woman collecting the “donations” was extremely pushy and demanding, shaming the international family in line in front of us. So, when it was our turn, I just donated the expected $15. I think it would be appropriate for the “suggested donation” to become the posted price for the tour.
More information can be found at www.maymont.org or by calling 804-358-7166.