During the Gilded Age (ca. 1880-1910) when great fortunes were being made, many ornamental estates such as Maymont were built throughout America. These extravagant showplaces demonstrated their owners' affluence as well as the upper-class taste for diverse historical and exotic styles.
In 1886, the Dooleys purchased 100 acres of rolling countryside on the James River as the site for their new home. Architect Edgerton Rogers designed the thirty-three-room, sandstone mansion, completed in 1893. The opulent upstairs rooms are restored and filled with original furnishings and artwork acquired by the Dooleys. The restored downstairs service area is furnished with artifacts of the period.
Over time, the Dooleys developed the estate landscape, creating the Italian garden, Japanese garden, grotto, arboretum, and extensive parkland. Largely intact today, the original complex of picturesque outbuildings included the gatehouse, stone barn, carriage house, water tower, compost house, chicken coop, and stable, later used as the Dooleys' garage. The Dooleys' mausoleum was added in 1923.
An elaborate ensemble of architecture, landscape, furnishings, and carriages, Maymont today provides an unusually complete representation of a distinctive era of America's past.
Maymont, Domestic Workplace
was not only a home and showplace; it was also a workplace. The Dooleys typically employed seven to ten individuals to maintain the order and beauty of their residence. Their household staff included two butlers, two cooks, a housemaid, lady's maid, chauffeur, coachman, and laundress. With few exceptions, these domestic employees were African American.
For southern blacks, the era was anything but gilded. While free from slavery, their work opportunities remained limited to agriculture, factory work, and domestic service. The period also brought increasingly strict racial segregation.
To learn more about the individuals who worked here, visit the restored kitchen, laundry, pantries. and other service areas.
Throughout Maymont's landscape, the Dooleys established an arboretum including specimens trees and shrubs imported from around the world. Valentine Richmond History Center
Maymont's Italian garden, designed by the architectural firm of Noland and Baskervill between 1907 and 1910. Valentine Richmond History Center
The Dooleys' Japanese garden, completed about 1912, was likely the creation of Y. Muto, who designed similar estate gardens in New York and Philadelphia. Valentine Richmond History Center
Earliest extant image of Maymont House, probably drawn by the architect, Edgerton Rogers, 1893. Valentine Richmond History Center
Maymont, ca. 1930
The domestic staff of a prominent Richmond household, ca. 1905-190. Private collection