Saturday, December 23, 2017

Christmas at the Maymont Mansion in Richmond

While in Richmond we took a tour of the Maymont Mansion. This gilded age estate is situated on 100 acres in the middle of Richmond. From the Maymont website: 

During the Gilded Age of the late 1880s through the 1910s—the era of Carnegie, Rockefeller and Vanderbilt —millionaires demonstrated their prosperity through their elaborate homes. Richmond-born financier James Dooley was among this new class in American society. His home, Maymont, stands today as a remarkably complete expression of Gilded Age luxury and opulence.

Maymont was the 100-acre Victorian country estate of James Henry and Sallie May Dooley. In 1886, the Dooleys first viewed and purchased the rough pasture and field that would become Maymont. At the age of forty, with no children and the resources of her husband’s prosperity at her disposal, Sallie Dooley led the effort to transform the landscape into a showplace that would rival the lavish estates that were springing up throughout the country. The Romanesque-style mansion was completed in 1893. The Dooleys spent the next three decades filling its sumptuous interiors with treasures from around the world and establishing Maymont’s magnificent gardens, landscapes and architectural complex.

The Dooleys  passed away in the early 1920s. They had no children and left the estate to the City of Richmond in their will.

Since we were there in winter ... the temps were in the mid-30s and there had just been a significant snowfall ... the first of the year ... so we were not able to view the gardens, which look like they are pretty spectacular when in bloom. BUT the interior spaces are just wonderful and seem so livable even today ... PLUS the mansion was totally decked out for the Holidays. It really is worth a visit when in Richmond.
Ready for the Holidays
One of the Parlors
The Dinner Table Set for a Christmas Feast
A Bedroom Set made of Silver and Narwhal Tusk Ivory
The Victorian Christmas Tree
The Wine and Spirits Cellar
The Kitchen

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Christmas at the Colonial Plantations

The Beautiful James River
The plantations along the James River offer some fantastic views of the river and surrounding areas, as well as several plantations that offer tours. During the Holidays some of the plantation homes are decorated in traditional colonial holiday themes ... except for the fact that they include a Christmas tree, which was not introduced to America from Germany until Victorian times. Unlike the antebellum plantation mansions of the deep south, these colonial buildings are seemingly much more modest. It is true, however, that they were luxury homes in the 1700s ... but times were different. 

These estates entertained the truly privileged of their time. Presidents, generals, civic leaders all dined, danced and slept in these homes. We visited two of these historic estates ... the Shirley Plantation and the Berkeley Plantation.

Shirley Plantation
Shirley Plantation is Virginia’s first plantation, founded in 1613, after a royal land grant carved the plantation out of the Virginia frontier. Shirley Plantation is, incidentally, the oldest family-owned business in North America dating to 1638 when Edward Hill established a farm on the banks of the James River. Construction of the present mansion began circa 1723 when Elizabeth Hill married John Carter, eldest son of Robert “King” Carter. Completed in 1738, “Great House,” is largely in its original state and is owned, operated, and resided in by direct descendants of Edward Hill. The ownership has been in the same family for eleven generations!

Shirley Plantation Aerial View
Dining Room
Main Living Room
Entry with the Famous "Floating Staircase"
Another Beautiful Room
Old Oak Tree
The Kitchen, located in one of the out buildings, as was usual in Colonial times
The Dovecoat
The Berkeley Plantation, which is next door to the Shirley Plantation estate, is similarly famous for its place in history, being the usurped headquarters of Union General McClelland  during the siege of Richmond. Abraham Lincoln paced the floor in the entry ballroom of the Berkeley. Plus, the first recorded "Thanksgiving" was celebrated here. The Berkeley Plantation was home to two presidents ... William Henry Harrison (the 9th U. S. President) and his grandson Benjamin Harrison (the 23rd U. S. President.)

Berkeley Plantation
Berkeley Plantation Aerial View
Entry Hall/Ballroom
Dining Table with Pineapple Christmas Tree Centerpiece

Christmastime in Virginia

Our grandson graduated from VCU a couple of weeks ago, so we spent a few days in Richmond. We toured a couple of Colonial Plantations and a marvelous Gilded Age Mansion. However, the tour de force were the Christmas decorations at the Jefferson Hotel, where we stayed. WOW! They go all out!

The Jefferson is a hotel that is just loaded with history. Built in 1895, it has been host to numerous presidents, dignitaries, celebrities and VIPs. The grand staircase was the setting for that iconic scene in Gone With the Wind when Vivien Leigh made her entrance to the ballroom, and later when Clark Gable carried her up the stairs.

This year, the whole entrance, lobby and ballroom, as well as the balcony and mezzanine. Out front the big bronze alligator sports a flower decoration and holds a very large glass ornament in its jaws. In the lobby, there is a lovely nativity (nice to see a nativity at Christmas, after all that is what it is about) and a large gingerbread and candy bi-plane carrying Santa and his bag of toys.

The ballroom is spectacular, with a two-and-a-half story tall, fully decorated Christmas tree as the focal point. Check this place out if you can. If not this year, some Christmas in the future.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving

Wishing all of you a
Happy and Fulfilling Thanksgiving

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Rough Point Doris Duke's Newport Mansion

When I was a kid growing up in Hawai’i, my Mom would often mention Doris Duke. I kind of knew something about her, but not much. I knew she had a plush home on the beach in Kahala, on the other side of Diamond Head. So when in Newport this time, we decided to visit the Duke’s “summer home” along the Cliff Walk where all the NYC hoi-polloi from the turn of the last century built their vacation or weekend retreats. Her home, Rough Point, was where she spent most summers as a youth, and again starting in the 1950s. Upon her death in 1993, Doris Duke bequeathed the estate to the Newport Restoration Foundation with the directive that it be opened to the public as a museum.

Doris at the Mermaid Pool at the Family Farm in New Jersey
Doris Duke (1912 – 1993) was an American heiress, socialite, horticulturalist, art collector, and philanthropist. The daughter of a wealthy tobacco tycoon, Duke was able to fund a life of global travel and wide-ranging interests. These extended across journalism, competition surfing, jazz piano, wildlife conservation and Oriental art.

Doris Duke
Duke was born in New York City, the only child of tobacco (American Tobacco Co.) and hydroelectric power (Duke Energy) tycoon James Buchanan Duke and his second wife, Nanaline Holt Inman. When Doris Duke came of age, she used her wealth to pursue a variety of interests, including extensive world travel and the arts. Duke also gave generous support to Trinity College, which Duke had designated to receive the gifts that would transform it into Duke University, a memorial to his father and brother.

Doris Duke's Passport tells of her Travels
Doris with Duke Kahanamoku and Fellow Surfers
Twice divorced, Duke enjoyed a colorful private life that was seldom out of the gossip columns. Her philanthropic work continued into her old age, some of it unknown to the public during her lifetime, Her estimated $1.3 billion fortune was largely left to the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, dedicated to medical research, prevention of cruelty to children and animals, the performing arts, wildlife and ecology. She was also active in preserving more than 80 historic buildings in Newport, Rhode Island.

Doris Duke resided at a number of homes in her lifetime, all special for different reasons. Her principal residence and official domicile was Duke Farms, her father's 2,700 acre estate in Hillsborough Township, New Jersey. Duke's other residences were private during her lifetime: She spent summer weekends working on her Newport Restoration Foundation projects while staying at Rough Point, the 49-room English manor-style mansion that she inherited in Newport, Rhode Island. Winters were spent at an estate she built in the 1930s and named "Shangri-La" in Honolulu, Hawaii and at "Falcon's Lair" in Beverly Hills, California, once the home of Rudolph Valentino.
(Excerpted from Wikipedia)

Pond on Duke Farm
Greenhouse on Duke Farm
Open Space at Duke Farm
Mughal Garden at the Home at Duke Farm
Shangri-La in Hawaii
Shangri-La in Hawaii
Islamic Interior in Shangri-La in Hawaii
Rough Point really is a gorgeous estate … and the Doris Duke story adds to its legacy. The house is decorated and furnished exactly as Duke left it when she passed in 1993. It is filled with antiques, art, stories and history. Our tour guide was wonderful and we highly recommend visiting Rough Point if you get the chance. We have visited other Newport mansions … Marble House and Breakers … and I think Rough Point is more interesting … has a better story.

Rough Point Aerial View along the Cliff Walk
Rough Point Front of Mansion
Rough Point Entry and Stairs
Rough Point Ballroom
Rough Point with Duke's Camel Topiaries up Front
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