RICHMOND, VA. -- Sorry Glensheen and James J. Hill. If you like touring dead barons' mansions, we found the best one in here in the capital of the confederacy. After Richmond residents burned their city so the Union wouldn't cash in after the Civil War -- talk about your sore losers -- Major James Dooley and his wife Sallie got the last laugh. He rebuilt the torn-up railroad into millions and parlayed it into a 100-acre spread on an old dairy farm in Richmond, christening the place Maymont in the 1890s.
They had no children and when Sallie died in 1925, the place was bequeathed to the city of Richmond. It's now a park with a zoo, complete with buffalo and bears, and a Japanese garden celebrating its 100th anniversary. The centerpiece of the rolling estate is the Gilded Age mansion. For the suggested $5, the tour is outstanding. After all, no one else every lived in the house expect Sallie and the Major. So all the stuff is theirs, including Tiffany stained glass windows, amazing furniture and a set of china with wildlife prints duplicating a set in the White House. I liked the oyster dishes.
If you're heading to Richmond, we recommend the One Bed and Breakfast, a newish Inn with two rooms in a perfect location a few blocks from the colorful Cary Street. Photos: Cherry blossoms exploding, an artist chalking the estate with the James River and the Maymont mantion.