Wednesday was a big day for historical home visits, so after Agecroft, I made my way over to Maymont to have a look around. And I came away with one word on my mind: wow.
Maymont is the estate that once belonged to the Dooley family. Covering 100 acres in Richmond, it includes house, gardens, carriage house, and even a few waterfalls. You could spend an entire day wandering the grounds and not even see everything on offer, but it is well worth a visit.
The grounds and gardens are open to the public for free, so you can come for as little or as long as you like and explore. The house is open for tours, and although it is technically free, donations are welcome and suggested [and pretty much expected]. The tours run every half-hour and are guided, so my first order of business was to get my name on the next available tour.
While waiting for your tour to begin, visitors are invited to look through the basement exhibit which highlights the lives of the many people who worked at Maymont and kept it running. You can read about particular members of the household staff who were with the family for a number of years; you can learn about what a day on the estate would look like; and you can see recreated sleeping rooms and a kitchen to get a sense of how the servants lived and how the household was run.
The house tour begins on the front steps of the home and continues around the ground floor and up into the second floor. Along the way you learn about James Henry and Sallie Dooley, their lives together, and their philanthropy in the area. You can see on display the grand tea sets and intricately detailed wallpapers and designs and get a sense for how the Dooleys lived; the dining room and its custom-made hutch are particularly impressive. On the upper floor you can look into their bedrooms [separate, of course] and learn about Sallie's love of swans. Fun fact: there are a number of swan references in her room, and it is a fun challenge to try to spot them all while you are up there. The tour itself took between 45 minutes and an hour and was very thorough and informative.
Once my tour wrapped up, I took myself on a little walk through some of the gardens, and wow, they were pretty impressive. I didn't have enough time to get to them all, but the ones I saw were beautiful. There are also a few waterfalls along the way as well as a pond that you can walk across, and I especially loved the extensive number of benches and seats that invite you to sit down and just enjoy the view.
All told I was on the grounds for about 2.5 hours or so, but I could easily have stayed for much, much longer. If I had done my research properly and thought about it ahead of time, I would have picked up some food on my way there and had myself a little picnic somewhere in the gardens. It's a good note for next time.
go there. now:
|[maymont mansion from the outside]|
|[the front stairs where the house tour begins]|
|[pathway down to the gardens]|
|[this garden was my favourite]|
|[between the flowers and the fountain and the benches and the views, it was pretty stunning]|
|[my favourite view]|
|[just one of the waterfalls]|
|[the pond with the lilypads]|
- there are 3 entrances to the estate, depending on where you want to go. i parked in the large lot at the hampton street entrance, located at 1700 hampton street, and then walked in from there
- there are supposedly trams that you can ride from point to point inside the estate, but it was not running on the day i visited
- the grounds and garden are free to visit. if you want to visit the home, tours are technically free, but donations are welcomed, and my feeling was that they were pretty much expected. i gave a $5 donation for my tour
- there are lots of different hours for the various attractions. if you are interested in visiting, check out the website for full information
- i only saw a few vending machines in one spot, so if you are planning on spending an extended amount of time on the grounds, i would suggest carrying your own snacks and drinks
- i have a vague memory of my guide telling me that photos are allowed inside the mansion, but i didn't take any because i didn't want to be that person and hold up the tour. but don't take my word for it, double check with your guide before taking any photos inside
|[the plaque reads: "here in 1929 henry asked maria to marry him. their family and friends dedicate this bench to all the joy that followed"]|
The house was impressive, but the grounds were breathtaking.