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The Maymont House, Photograph, circa 1939


James H. Dooley was a Virginia politician and businessman in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. After the Civil War, he amassed a great amount of wealth by expanding railroad services. In 1869 he married Sallie May Dooley, a daughter of a prominent family who held romantic views of life in antebellum Virginia. With this wealth, he constructed two large estates, Maymont and Swannanoa.

Maymont is a 100 acre estate with a 33 room, 12,000 square foot house. While the main parts of the house are decorated in the finest of global fashions, the lower half of the house served as servants quarters, with a majority of the Dooley’s domestic servants, being African Americans. These servants quarters are segregated from the rest of the house and include a separate entrance and separate staircase. Although Mr. Dooley was abundantly wealthy, as illustrated by his lavish homes, he never had children so much of his money went into philanthropy, including the support of orphans; upon the death of himself and his wife, Maymont was donated, becoming a public park.

Citation: Maymont, once a magnificent estate, is now a beautiful public park in the city of Richmond. Library of Virginia Visual Studies Collection 800 East Broad Street, Richmond, VA.


Social Studies: VUS.8 VS.8
Art: 4.1, 5.1

Suggested Questions

Analyze: What can the Dooley's story tell us about the economy following Reconstruction?

In Their Shoes: Imagine you are a servant for a large estate. What might an avaerage work day look like for you?

Artistic Exploration: Design a Gilded Age mansion. What sorts of amenities would you include? What supporting buildings are needed to run the estate? 

Artistic Exploration: Look at the photograph of the Dooley mansion. From the photo, what specifically can you conclude about the wealth of the occupants? be specific as you cite architectural and size components.

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