Posted in Travel And Exploration

A Victorian “Mourning” At Maymont Estate In Richmond V.A.

A few years ago me and my friend,Ashley,decided to take a short daytrip away from our city. We journeyed out to meet my other friend,Brian,in Richmond Virginia. We were all into Edgar Allen Poe and I had found out about The Poe Museum somehow. They host an “Unhappy Hour” that seemed to be all sorts of fun!

A little piece of history tucked away.

In researching this day trip I stumbled upon Maymont Estate. They were hosting a “Mourning In The Victorian Age” exhibit and I felt it went well with our dark road trip theme! Bring it on! If you don’t know me,let me say,I am all about all things Victorian and creepy.

Me and Ashley hit the road from our end which was Greensboro. Brian lived in VA then so he didn’t have quite the trek. That’s ok! We are having fun! Burger Queens! Yes I’m duck facing in that mirror pic BUT duck face was popular then. All the cool kids did it..not really but it was as hip as mirror pics 🙂

Maymont was the 100-acre Victorian country estate of James Henry and Sallie May Dooley. In 1886, the Dooleys first viewed and purchased the land 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. Yes girl,yes.

“May Mont,” comes from combining Mrs. Dooley’s maiden name and the French word for hill.

I’m a sucker for the Gilded Age. Can you tell?

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.

Unlike with Biltmore Estate,there were no heirs to the estate. Due to this there was no one to change the property,update it over time. When the Dooleys died Maymont was given to the city of Richmond.  In fact, only six months after Mrs. Dooley’s death, Maymont opened as a public park and museum, and has survived intact. Today it is an unusually complete example of a Gilded Age estate. The estate, including the residence, gardens, grounds and original architectural complex, remains very much as it was during the Dooleys’ time.


Starting outside there were hints as to what awaited us inside on our tour through “Mourning In The Victorian Age.”

“Ring the bell softly,
There’s crape on the door.”

Black ribbon on door handle or bell means death inside and should deter a caller from ringing.

“If several deaths occur in the same family, tie a black ribbon to everything left alive that enters the house, even dogs and chickens. This will protect against deaths spreading further.”

Inside we learned many other interesting facts about mourning during this time. It was pretty intense! Victorians even had tear catchers or Lachrymatories.

In ancient Roman Times Tear bottles were quite the rage. Mourners filled little glass vials or cups with tears and would place them in burial tombs. These were symbols of love and respect. This tradition would return during the Victorian period when those mourning the loss of loved ones would collect their tears in bottles ornately decorated with silver and pewter. Special stoppers allowed the tears to evaporate. When the tears were gone, the mourning period ended.” It’s sort of amazing,is it not?

This stuff fascinates me.

There was a mourning gown standing off in one of the rooms on the tour that kept scaring the crap out of us. I’m very fond of mourning dresses,in fact I design them, but it was a bit jarring out of the corner of my eye. BUTTT it made it a perfect,creepy,awesome tour.

Mourning clothes were a family’s outward display of their inner feelings.The length of mourning depended on your relationship to the deceased. The different periods of mourning dictated by society were expected to reflect your natural period of grief. Widows were expected to wear full mourning for two years. Everyone else presumably suffered less – for children mourning parents or vice versa the period of time was one year, for grandparents and siblings six months, for aunts and uncles two months, for great uncles and aunts six weeks, for first cousins four weeks.  Very different times….. Scarlet O’Hara you did it wrong!!


During mourning the curtains  would be drawn and clocks would be stopped at the time of death. All mirrors were covered with crape or veiling to prevent the deceased’s spirit from getting trapped in the looking glass.

“You should always cover your mouth while yawning so your spirit doesn’t leave you and the devil never enters your body.”

With the advent of photography, the Victorians were presented with an opportunity to immortalize the deceased in a way that was previously impossible. The price of photography was steep at that time so typically these post-mortem photos would be the ONLY photos your family would have of you. Could you imagine?

In the earliest forms of post-mortem photography posed and made to look as if they were still alive. Photographer-morticians even had special props and carefully arranged the corpses to stand upright for the families to pose with them.

“If you hear 3 knocks and no one is there, it usually means someone close to you has died. The superstitious call this the 3 knocks of death. “

This tour was phenomenal. I learned so much and got to see some amazing artifacts from the Victorian Age. Even though this was somewhere close to 5 or 6 years ago I researched and saw that they still give this tour yearly! Last year it was called “Mourning Obsessions” and it’s well worth the small fee of $7 they are charging. I’m thinking it’s time for another trip!

A typical Richmond trip for me consists of Maymont,eating somewhere rad in town then popping over to Unhappy Hour at The Poe Museum. From Greensboro you can easily do all this in a full day trip!

If you like the look of Maymont but aren’t too into the whole “Mourning Period” aspect then it’s open daily for tours as well! They host loads of fun events for the whole family! There is a nature center,a waterfall,beautiful gardens and wildlife exhibits including bald eagles,bears an otters! I highly encourage October travel because the property is alive with color! We also basically had the property to ourselves this day. It was magical!

For more photos and info on a typical day at Maymont check out my next blog,Maymont Estate , Gardens And Animals!  Following that we dive into our Poe adventure with  The Poe Museum : The Cask Of Amontillado!  What can I say?? I’m definitely in a Halloween mood!

Onward to the next adventure!!







*Art curation services specialist *Designer/creator of all sorts of gadgets *Steampunk/ Mori Girl designer *Fire performer *Mother of three cats and one pretty fish *Traveler of the world! *Costumer/Cosplayer * Makeup Lover!

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