Today, Maymont's 100 acres feature numerous attractions. But for many, Maymont's magnificent gardens and landscapes—still very much as the Dooleys left them—can not be rivaled. Visitors to Maymont's grounds represent a broad audience, ranging from romantic couples and tourists to picnicking families and seekers of solitude. The grounds and gardens are like nothing else in the City of Richmond—expansive, unique, well-maintained and ever-changing. No public garden today could dream of duplicating Maymont's magic, to say nothing of its costly architecture, grand trees or diversity of plants.
It all began in 1886, when Major and Mrs. James H. Dooley acquired a former dairy farm on the James River in what was then Henrico County. From rough fields and pastures, they created a showplace of the type in vogue among the American millionaires of the Gilded Age. Completion of their opulent mansion in 1893 was only the beginning. The Dooleys understood that luxurious landscaping was an essential part of any distinctive estate. Throughout the next three decades, the Dooleys developed the grounds of their estate, employing the foremost architects and landscape designers.
An avid student of horticulture, Mrs. Dooley, with an estate manager and an army of twenty groundskeepers, directed the planting and maintenance of her gardens. In the words of her husband, she "covered it with the work of her own hands" and "put out six hundred rose bushes and thousands of other flowers, and purchased the most costly evergreens from all parts of the world."
Maymont's grounds are diverse, with high bluffs, massive rock outcroppings, streams and ravines. Its expansive lawns are interspersed by gazeboes, statuary, meandering walkways and various garden ornaments. Maymont's spectacular Italian Garden, Japanese Garden and Arboretum all date to the Dooleys' era and are highlights of any garden tour. Additionally, many smaller specialty gardens exist at Maymont.
Visit Maymont's grounds to fully understand why the grandeur of the Dooleys' gift to Richmond grows with each passing year.