Inside Swannanoa: Builders of the mysterious mansion on the mountain

Swannanoa E Front SMJames and Sallie Dooley used their great wealth to shape a dream in marble on a mountaintop above Waynesboro.  On Sunday, March 29, historian Dale Wheary will speak at the Augusta County Government Center about this fascinating couple, their passion, their connections to the Valley and the magnificent Swannanoa they inspired and built nearby.

Wheary will speak at the Spring Meeting of the Augusta County Historical Society 3 p.m. Sunday, March 29, at the Government Center in Verona.  She is curator and director of the historical collections and programs at Maymont, the noted and historic mansion built by the Dooleys in Richmond. The program is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

Using lavish illustrations, Wheary will tell the story of Swannanoa from inspiration and construction through the dozen years the Dooleys used it.  Her research describes Swannanoa and Maymont as important expressions of the “Gilded Age,” and the tastes, interests and aspirations of Richmond financier James Henry Dooley and his wife Sallie.

For more than three decades, Wheary has focused on directing the long-term conservation and restoration of the 1893 Maymont Mansion, documenting and researching the Dooleys’ estate, collections and Swannanoa, their summer home.  She will discuss the many local connections between the mountaintop mansion and the Valley, and why it was built where it was.

The ACHS was founded in 1964 to study, collect, preserve, publish, educate about, and promote the history of Augusta County and its communities. The society is marking its 50th year in 2014 with special events and presentations.  More information is available online at

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