Swannanoa Palace, Virginia


Swannanoa Palace was built in 1912 as the summer house of Major James Dooley, CEO of the C. & O. railroad.  Dooley lived in Richmond, Virginia.  In the summer, it is hot there.  Very hot and humid.  Without air conditioning, the choice was the mountains.  Most wealthy people of the previous generation had built homes at White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.  But by 1912 there had been real changes.  The automobile existed.  A tunnel through the Blue Ridge Mountains had opened up realistic, and rapid, train transportation to the Blue Ridge.  So, on a 2,150 foot mountain (OK, you Westerners, I know they are hills) Dooley built Swannanoa Palace.  The temperature there, on hot days, is a good 15°F cooler than Richmond -- 82° is a lot better than 97°.  A look at the passenger train schedule to and from Crozet and Richmond will show that Dooley selected the times to be as convenient as possible for him.  He could actually commute if he wished to. 

The building, as copy of the Villa de Medici in Rome, cost over $2 million (about $40 million of today's dollars).  Three hundred Italian artisans were brought over to build the marble palace.  It has 52 rooms, but over half are servant quarters in the basement.  The roof is really red, but I do not have enough red roof stones to reproduce this building in this color.  This model is about 48 inches wide.  It is still standing; I will take it down in early May.

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The large center window is a Tiffany window.  The largest Tiffany window known.

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Comparison of these pictures with those of Peter Hartel on the "builder" page will show that Peter is not only the better builder but also the better photographer.
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A few of you may wonder what I look like.  Here is a picture from this Christmas.  This picture is about as good as they get.

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