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  • Virginia Museum of Fine ArtsVirginia Museum of Fine Arts Richmond, Virginia
    The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, Virginia was one of the first art museums in the south that would be operated by state funding, and was started in 1919 with a marvelous donation of 50 paintings to the Commonwealth of Virginia by Judge John Barton Payne, a prominent Virginian. Payne, the governor of the state, John Garland Pollard and the WPA would help with the funding, and the museum opened in 1936 on the city's Boulevard, in an English renaissance style structure that would become the headquarters for the museum and designed by Peebles and Ferguson Architects of Norfolk. The new museum would become the state's flagship art museum as well as the headquarters for the educational network that would take the best of the art world, present and past, into every nook and cranny in the state. In 1947, it would be enhanced with the important donations from the Lillian Thomas Pratt collection of jeweled items by Peter Carl Faberge', that would include the biggest public collection of Faberge eggs outside of Russia; along with the outstanding collection of T. Catesby Jones collection of modern art. During the 1950s, the marvelous collections would be augmented by the donations of Adolphe D. Williams and Wilkins C. Williams as well as Arthur and Margaret Glasgow. The years rolled by as the collections grew from the many generous donations, as well as hosting many special exhibitions that would bring in bigger crowds to view and visit with the masters and the finest artists in the world. In May of 2010, the museum would unveil a $150 million expansion of the already large 13.5 acre complex, which would increase their exhibit spaces by 50%. This expansion included a three story atrium, with a 40 foot tall glass wall to the east and more glass to the west, as well as a partially glazed roof. The addition would add another 165,000 square feet to the museum and bring its entry to the Boulevard, which is one of the city's grandest avenues. The new landscaping would add a 4 acre sculpture garden with many of the new additions and changes being named after the donors that had given so much.  The museum's collections are divided up into various categories, with many being called the area where they originated from; and include; 21st century art, African art, mid to late 20th century art, American art, Ancient American art, South Asian art, ancient art, Faberge, art deco and art nouveau, European art, East Asian art and English silver. All total there are over 22,000 works of art housed here, with constant donations coming in and exciting and interesting changing exhibits that pique the community's curiosity enough for them to come and visit. Some of the American artists include; George Bellows, Thomas Hart Benton, William Merritt, Charles Caryl Coleman, John Singleton Copley, Jasper Francis Cropsey, Edward Hopper, Chester Webster, George Inness, Jacob Lawrence, Charles Willson Peale, Paul Revere II, Severin Roesen, John Singer Sargent, Louis C. Tiffany and company and more. European artists include; Paul Cezanne, Edgar Degas, Andrea di Bartolo, Francisco Goya, Claude Monet, Nicolas Poussin, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Salvator Rosa, Henri Rousseau, Peter Paul Rubens, and many more exciting and excellent artists. 

  • Virginia Capitol Building
    Virginia Capitol Building Richmond, VirginiaThe Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, Virginia is not only the seat of the government for the commonwealth, but it is also the third capital the state has had since its early beginnings; but it does house the oldest legislative body in the United States, the Virginia General Assembly. The capitol structure would be completed in 1788, and it is the eighth such building to serve the commonwealth since its inception; with the majority of the older capitols being burned down by fires, back in the colonial days, when wood was used more until the hazards of fires were realized. This capitol building doesn't have an exterior dome, and is one of the eleven in the nation that don't. In the colonial days, the capital of the commonwealth would be Jamestown, where the House of Burgesses would meet in 1619 for the first time, and here the government would go through four state houses blamed on fires. In the early 18th century, a marvelous new capitol structure would be built in Williamsburg, by Henry Cary, a contractor that had just completed the work on the Wren building at the College of William and Mary, which would be the legislature's temporary home. This new structure would be a one story H-shaped building, but really was two buildings joined by a covered arcade. On the first floor of the west building the general court and the colony's secretary would be located, while the first floor east would be for the House of Burgesses and their clerk; completed in 1705, with the governor's grand palace located nearby. The structure that sits on the old foundation in Colonial Williamsburg today is the third capitol building that was constructed there. Cary had constructed the capitol without fireplaces, so they had to be added in 1723, to help the building stay dry and also to give heat in the winters. In 1747, that building would also burn down, leaving only a few walls and the foundation. The governor at that time, William Gooch, would urge the house to rebuild the capitol, but there were many of the legislators that wanted the government to be moved to a city that was closer to navigation and trade. While all this continued, the Burgesses would meet at the Wren Building; with the reconstruction of the capitol being approved in 1748 by a close vote of 40 to 38 against. The new capitol would be occupied in 1753, and it was in this famous structure that Patrick Henry stood tall and brave, and delivered his outstanding speech against the Stamp Act on May 29, 1765.  Henry, along with men like George Washington, George Mason, George Wythe, Thomas Jefferson and Richard Henry Lee, as well as others would be instrumental in maneuvering the legislature into a revolution. Fighting broke out in the north, and the building rang out with the cries of Jefferson's first try to get a bill for religious freedom, or Mason's Virginia Declaration of Rights or his Virginia constitution. Finally, on June 20, 1776, the Virginians declared their independence from Great Britain and wrote the state's first constitution, which made a separate and independent government four days before the Continental Congress would vote on their Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.  The capitol in Williamsburg would last until the Revolutionary War began, upon which, Governor Thomas Jefferson urged the Burgesses to move the capitol to Richmond, and the last time that the Williamsburg capitol would be used was on December 24, 1779, when the General Assembly adjourned to reconvene at their new home in 1780. When they reconvened, in a makeshift structure by Shockoe Bottom, they made plans to construct a new building to house a new state legislature for the Commonwealth of Virginia. The General Assembly would meet in the new capitol building, although not fully finished, in October, 1792.

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  • MaymontMaymont Mansion Richmond, Virginia Mansion
    The Maymont Mansion in Richmond, Virginia was started in 1886, when Sallie and James Dooley obtained some farmland along the banks of the James River, and after making plans for their new house, they commissioned Edgerton Stewart Rogers to do the work. Rogers had been born and educated in Rome, so he decided to combine the Romanesque revival style with the picturesque Queen Anne style for the Dooley's dream house. The Dooley's would move into their new 12,000 square foot home in 1893, with 33 rooms, they would call it, "May Mont" using a name that put Sallie's maiden name with the French word for hill. The Maymont is rather unique in historic house museums since it rarely that a historical society or any other facility should acquire a very historic and beautiful house with only the original occupants having lived in it, and after they were gone, everything they had, was left intact, and donated to the nonprofit Maymont Foundation. The Dooley's would live there for 32 years, and within six months of Sallie's passing, the mansion doors were opened as a museum. The interior and its marvelous collections would be kept intact, with just some minor alterations needed to preserve the magnificent house and property for all posterity. Today, the mansion is a well preserved testament to the gilded age of design and the personal tastes of well-educated, cosmopolitan millionaires, with a influence of both the served and server, working class and elite, as well as black and white, after having gone through an exhaustive decade long research that was finished in 2005. The main rooms has very distinct and individual characteristics, with adjoining drawing rooms that mirror the French 18th century styles. The walls have been covered by the finest silk damask, the hearths are made of white onyx, while the friezes and ceilings have been finished with distinctive ornamental plaster works and decorative paintings. The small den is definitely near Eastern and the living hall has a marvelous English renaissance-inspired mantlepiece, a library with the unusual mixture of eclectic and artistic tastes that had been prevalent during the 1880s and 1890s. The plastered ceilings and friezes have been embellished by stylistic stenciling and strapwork that is gorgeous in mahogany, and used throughout the house, and that included the original Venetian blinds. The more significant rooms have been enhanced with stained-glass transoms, wall treatments, decorative ceilings and carved woodwork. The second floor also has a central living hall, which is lighted by a large Tiffany Studios stained glass window that rises above the fabulous grand stairway, with the morning room furnished with a painted satinwood set, along with the famous swan room, two guest bedrooms and two tiled bathrooms. The mansion also could boast about the most modern conveniences like central heat, electric lighting, an elevator and three full bathrooms. All told, there are 12 completely restored rooms located on the first and second floor of the mansion that are open for viewing. However, that is not the whole house, nor the full story, since there were many men and women that came to the house, not as guest, family or friends, but as employees. During their time at the mansion, the Dooleys would employ anywhere from seven to ten domestic workers, almost all of them being African American, so that the couple could maintain the richness of their mansion, grounds and own personal belongings. Some of the duties of these employees included cleaning the mansion's 33 rooms, feeding at least a dozen people every day for every meal and often that number would be increased to include hundreds, helped the couple dress and bath, transport them around in the latest well running carriages and later, motor cars, washed, ironed and anything else that came up.

  • The Museum of the Confederacy
    The Museum of the Confederacy Richmond, VirginiaThe Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, Virginia houses a marvelous collection of relics, manuscripts, photographs, and even the former White House of the Confederacy, along with many other materials pertaining to the Civil War and the Confederate States of America. The White House of the Confederacy had been a private residence, a grey stuccoed neoclassical styled mansion that had been constructed by John Brockenbrough, the president of the Bank of Virginia, that had been designed by Robert Mills. The magnificent house had been constructed in 1818 in the city's affluent Shockoe Hill area, just two blocks from the state capitol. Some of his neighbors included future US Senator Benjamin Watkins Leigh, US Chief Justice John Marshall, defense lawyer John Wickham and Aaron Burr. The house would be sold by the family in 1844, and then owned by numerous rich families during the antebellum era, and included US Congressman and future Confederate Secretary of War, James Seddon. Lewis Dabney Crenshaw bought the house just before the Civil War began, and added a third floor, then turned around and sold it to the city, that in turn rented it to the Confederacy as its executive mansion. In August of 1861, Jefferson Davis, his wife, Varina and their children would move in and then live in the lovely mansion until the war ended. Davis had recurring attacks of malaria, facial neuralgia, cataracts in his left eye, insomnia and unhealed wounds from his time with the Mexican War. Because of the occasional severity of the ailments, Davis stayed at the house and kept an office on the second floor. Jefferson's personal secretary, Colonel Burton Harrison would also inhabit the mansion during that period. Some of the neighborhood children that played with the Davis' children included, George Smith Patton, whose father was commanding the 22nd Virginia Infantry, and whose son, George Patton, Jr. would command the US Third Army during WWII. Joseph Davis fell from a 15 foot high portico to his death in the spring of 1864 that would devastate the family. Varina's mother and sister would often visit the family to help in any way they could, as well as adding their support. When the evacuation of Richmond began on April 2, 1865, the family would abandon the mansion, and within 12 hours, the house would be seized by Major General Godfrey Weitzel's XVII Corps. President Lincoln, who had been close by in City Point, which has become Hopewell, Virginia, would travel up the James River and tour the city and mansion, where he spent some three hours perusing the first floor since he felt it very improper for him to enter the private areas of another man's house, even under the circumstances. Admiral David Dixon Porter came with the president and they would hold a number of meetings with the local officials there. One of those visiting was Confederate Brigadier General Joseph Reid Anderson, the current owner of the Tredegar Iron Works. While the Reconstruction happened, the Confederate White House would be used as the headquarters of Military District Number One, Virginia, and often became the residence of the commanding officer of the Department of Virginia. After Reconstruction ended, in October of 1870, the city would get possession of the mansion and used it as the Richmond Central School, one of the first public schools to reopen after the war. In 1890, when the city of Richmond announced plans to destroy the mansion and build a new school, the Confederate Memorial Literary Society was created to save the former Confederate White House from that destruction, opening it as the Confederate Museum in 1896. The museum would be housed in the mansion for many years, but as the centennial approached, the museum's board decided that the mansion should evolve from a type of shrine to a more modern museum, hiring their first museum professional in 1963, and changing its name in 1970 to "The Museum of the Confederacy". It contains the biggest and most complete collection of relics, memorabilia and personal effects that pertained to the Confederacy, with thousands of objects, and some owned by Jefferson Davis, Raphael Semmes, Robert E. Lee, Lewis Armistead, Joseph E. Johnston, Wade Hampton, John Bell Hood, Thomas Jonathan Jackson, Joseph Wheeler, Simon Bolivar Buckner and J. E. B. Stuart. A newer and more modern structure was constructed in 1976 adjacent to the White House on the remainder of its three-quarters of an acre; and the first ironclad warship, the CSS Virginia, that fought against the USS Monitor, sits proudly in front.

January 11, 2011