joy magnetism: Upstairs, downstairs

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Friday, July 2, 2010

Upstairs, downstairs

Magnet #861 - Maymont

Have ya'll seen that Clive Owen movie Gosford Park? The really good one - about the genteel Brits in the English countryside and the lives of their upstairs and downstairs servants?

That's what the Maymont House Museum reminded me of. The U.S. version of that movie. Maymont was the 100-acre Gilded Age estate of a wealthy Richmond couple, the Dooleys. There's a nature preserve and a set of gorgeous gardens, plus the house on the estate is available to tour.

So, yeah, you know we totally did the tour. It starts you off belowstairs, with a rather well-done and in-depth self-guided tour, telling the story of how the Walker family, and the rest of the servants lived and helped serve the Dooleys family over the generations. So very cool. I mean, on these tours, you always get to see the dumbwaiters, the bellringer switchboards, the pantries and the kitchens, but, how often do you get to learn the details?

I mean, dudes, it took 10-12 hours to do laundry - one load! And, the manpower needed to host a tea party, you would not believe!

When it's time, they have you meet around the house at the front door. Not the side, where the carriage entrance was - you have to love houses with carriage entrances, it puts you right in that carriage in your best day/evening dress! But, at the front door, you're greeted by one of the docent volunteers to take you through the house, presumably because the mistress of the house has gone away for the day, leaving the guide to show you around.

What a good tour and a sweet tour guide, too. You can see the tour via this lovely blogpost. But our guide took us through the receiving and dining rooms downstairs, as well as the bedrooms upstairs, all the while answering our questions where she could.

She gave me a bit of perspective, explaining to me that though the Dooleys were very wealthy - they weren't near as wealthy as those Vanderbilts down in NC - which I have to take that they couldn't have been part of Mrs. Astor's circle in NYC, could they have? I dunno.

Anyway, you'll see through that blogpost that the house was certainly the epitome of the Gilded Age - for better or for worse, filled with such Gilded Age-y ornate furniture from all over, fueled by some definitely eclectic tastes.

On the good side, that eclecticism also included a number of Tiffany pieces that were pointed out along the way - which was no surprise, since the Tiffany exhibit at the VMFA has totally taken over Richmond, in such a wonderful surround-sound branding way, that I can hardly believe it. The piece on this magnet is actually a major panel in the house in their grand foyer.

So gorgeous. So unsigned! But no worries, Tiffany confirmed that it was from their studios.

On the bad side, the eclecticism (yes, that word sounds ok - odd, but ok) really freaked me out when we got to Sallie May's room - where, upon her death, she had her bed from their second house, Swannanoa, brought to Maymont room, so it could be on display. Which wouldn't have been so bad, had it not been this huge the shape of a swan.

A swan. A big giant swan.

Of course, both sisters were more worried about the Tiffany whaletusk/silver vanity table and chair. Disturbing, to say the least, but man, I'll see that swan in my nightmares.

And we'll likely be riding it, right into belly of the Kraken.
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jen said...

Loved Maymont. I'm sad Swannanoa isn't open for tours. It looks cool.

joy said...

Yeah, Swannanoa looks supercool to visit, but all the blogs and articles I found said that the building's going to rot, because the owners keep trying to turn it into something, but never can quite make it.

Although, I kept thinking of the Swannanoa near Western, every time she said it.