Virginia State Seal Virginia Department of Historic Resources

062-0022 Swannanoa

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For additional information, read the Nomination Form PDF

VLR Listing Date 04/28/1969

NRHP Listing Date 10/01/1969

NRHP Reference Number 69000221

Richmond businessman and philanthropist Maj. James H. Dooley built this palatial mountaintop villa as a summer home for himself and his wife, Sallie May. Inspired by the Villa Medici in Rome, the Nelson County mansion, completed in 1913, was designed by Noland and Baskervill of Richmond. The exterior is faced in Georgia marble, while the interior is richly appointed with the finest materials and decorations. An outstanding interior feature is a huge Tiffany Studio stained-glass window on the stair landing said to depict Mrs. Dooley in the gardens. Each of the principal rooms has a distinct architectural character from the Louis XVI music room to the Turkish office. Completing the image of a Gilded Age estate is an Italian-style terraced garden. From 1949 to 1998 Swannanoa housed the University of Science and Philosophy, a cultural and religious institution founded by American sculptor Walter Russell and his wife Lao.  This exceptional property anchors the western end of the Greenwood-Afton Rural Historic District.

VLR: Virginia Landmarks Register
NPS: National Park Service
NRHP: National Register of Historic Places
NHL: National Historic Landmark

Updated: March 12, 2021