“A Haunted Marble Palace”
This 1912 Italianate marble palace is now open for group tours, weddings and other events. By appointment only. Call for information or to plan a group tour, contact Phil Dulaney. Major James Dooley, an executive with the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad Company, completed construction of the $2 million Swannanoa in 1912. Dooley, who owned the Maymont estate is Richmond, built this 52-room marble palace as a token of love for his wife, Sally May. More than 300 artisans were hired to create the palace as a replica of the Villa de Medici in Rome. Visitors today can still see the depth of James and Sally May’s relationship is places like the 4,000 piece Tiffany stained-glass window and a domed ceiling bearing the likeness of Mrs. Dooley. Limited weekend visiting hours. Check Events calendar at www.nelsoncounty.com for times.
Call ahead or visit the Rockfish Gap Visitor's Center and ask beforehand--they have strange hours. If it's open, don't miss it. It'll cost you $5, but it is totally worth it!
Rumor has it, this palace-mansion is haunted. It was built in 1912 by Major James Dooley as a completely-marble recreation of the Villa Medici, and named "Swannanoa" because his wife adored swans, and because swans mate for life. They were infatuated with one another. This was their summer home.
Her bed--which you can still see--is in the shape of the swan! Later on, the artist Walter Russel lived in the house and created some of his best work. Be sure to check out the incredible Tiffany's stained glass window.
Swananoa is the best of both worlds. A Taj Mahal, preserved in its gradual decline, it sits still and silent yet speaks volumes in its vacancy. Truly enchanted. I am so grateful for the opportunity to tour the villa and its grounds.
Closes early and signs warn about trespassing. "Police take notice," the sign says. So we had to do a fast drive by anyway since we drove so far to see it. Took a drive by photo.
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