Saturday, January 31, 2015

Two Worlds of the Dooley Mansion

For more than thirty years, Maymont employed servants to maintain their estate.  Most servants lived in their own homes but a few lived below stairs.

A  One of two coal storage rooms
B  Furnace
C  Kitchen and dining area for domestic staff
D  Pantry and also referred to as "dairy room"
E  Laundry Room
F  Cold room --unheated room for perishable foods
G  Butler's Bedroom
H  Wine Cellar
I  Maid's Room
J  Drying Closet

The Dooleys lived only decades away from the end of the Civil War.  The master-slave mentality was still fresh in the south.  They employed mostly African American domestics to take care of their home.  Most had limited opportunities, so many turned to working for wealthy white families.  The Dooleys employed a butler, a second butler, a cook, a kitchen maid, a housemaid, a lady's maid, and a laundress.  They also employed an estate manager, a chauffeur, a coachman, and twenty workers to maintain the grounds and stables.

Maymont domestic workers typically worked thirteen hour days and were given one or two afternoons off a week.

Maymont was at the cusp of many new inventions--such as electricity, central heat, modern plumbing and other new appliances.  The home also had central heat from a coal burning furnace.  It had three full bathrooms and two half baths with hot and cold running water.  They also have an Otis Elevator.  The laundress still had to wash clothes by hand and iron with a flatiron that had to be heated on the coal burning stove.

Just like on Downton Abbey, servants answered the call of the upstairs residents.

This is the stove in the kitchen.

The workers took their meals in the kitchen.

Off from the kitchen is the pantry.

The Laundry

Then we come to the Cold Room.  The door allowed the iceman to deliver once or twice a week to supply the large icebox.

This is the Maids' Room.  Notice they had work areas in their room.

This museum aid gives an idea of how much work one afternoon tea took for these servants.

Below stairs was furnished to date the Maymont period.  Only a few items are original.  The wall and trim colors replicate 1910 colors documented by microscopic analysis.

The Dooleys cared about their community and gave 3 million dollars that made it possible for St. Joseph's Orphanage to be built.  It continues to help families and children as St. Joseph's Villa today. When James Dooley passed away Sallie May Dooley gave 1/2 million to build the Richmond Public Library as a memorial to her husband.

Upon the death of the Dooleys, they left significant bequests to many institutions in Richmond. They left bequests to certain household employees as well.  I'm glad they also left the estate of Maymont to the City of Richmond to be used as a museum and park that first opened in 1926.


  1. This mini~series is so fascinating! Thank you for all of it. I love to see the period artefacts, which add such authenticity to every room. Goodness, just imagine nearly fifteen staff hours to prepare for and serve five people! And that was just afternoon tea!
    I wish I could ask my forebears of their days at work, how fascinating it would be! My Great Grandfather was an estate gardener, his wife, my Great Grandmother was a laundress, their daughter, my Nanna was a housekeeper, and her husband cathedral verger. How I wish I had their tales to share, so it is wonderful that the Dooley's left their estate with so much information for the future. ~~~Deb

    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed it, Deb. It's facinating how our ancestors worked. We couldn't hold a candle to their labors. Your forebears were hard working people--I know you are proud of them! I often wish I had asked more questions of my relatives when I was younger. I guess we grow wiser a little too late. xo ♥

  2. I think I feel more at home in this part of the mansion! Lovely yellow ware bowls, a pewter tea pot (or coffee pot?), the pantry, simple furnishings, a sewing machine...all functional, but lovely. Oh, I almost forgot that wonderful stove!

    Thanks for taking me along on this field trip! :)

    1. I agree with you, Cheryl. Maybe we could move in! The stove was just beautiful. I'm so sorry my photograph wasn't as great as the stove. ♥

  3. Hello Martha,
    I'm so glad I stumbled in from Cathy'S Blog!
    What simply WONDERFUL pictures of a LOVELY place!!
    I truly enjoyed and am looking forward to visiting again!
    Many Blessings, your newest follower, Linnie

    1. Thank you, Linnie! I'm so glad you came to visit. I'm coming over to your place soon. ♥

  4. I would not have enjoyed doing laundry back then as a full-time job! And that chart was very interesting showing the man/woman hours needed for Tea. Thank you for the tour. We did not see the servant quarters when we were there (probably close to 20 years ago).

  5. Cathy,I can't imagine doing all the laundry by hand--the few items I wash by hand is enough for me! I think it's only been recently that they restored the basement. They had other museum aids that pointed out the number of hours needed for each task--a large number of hours required for each meal for instance. These servants worked really hard. Thanks for coming along even though you've already visited Maymont. ♥

  6. I watched a YOUTUBE video on the real life of Servants in old England. It was incredible the amount of labor and the hours of drudgery these men and women put in each and every day. I like seeing the servants quarters, the rooms are filled with light. I've always thought it would be nice to have a kitchen in which you walk down a few steps and the open cupboards go up to the ceiling. Hey, there's my Redeye SInger sewing machine! Everything looks so quaint and pristine, from the aprons to the laundry; but the reality was quite different I'm afraid.

    1. Jeri, it is quite eye opening to know how much work these folks endured. In the south, as you know, it was the only choice for work for many. I immediately thought of your redeye Singer when we were there. The machine was a beauty.
      I often think of the reality of life when I visit such places as Maymont, Williamsburg and other sites. Life wasn't a bed of roses for sure. ♥


Your comments will show after moderation. Thank you. ♥