William Dilworth

BUTLER, 1919-1925

William Dilworth came to Maymont around 1919 as an experienced butler who had honed his skills in other elite residences. Each day before dawn, Mr. Dilworth arose in his rental house on Jacquelin Street, left his wife, Mary, and their three children, and set out by foot or bicycle to travel the mile and a half to work at the estate.Entering the mansion through the service door, he greeted the cook and underbutler. After changing into his morning suit in the butler’s room, he headed upstairs to begin his workday by serving the Dooley’s breakfast at 8:00am. Throughout the day, Mr. Dilworth undertook the specialized tasks of a butler, coordinating with and supervising other staff members. In the late afternoon, he changed into his evening jacket and served dinner to the Dooleys. Then, he washed dishes, tidied the butler’s pantry, and secured the mansion for the evening. Belowstairs, he changed back into his street clothes, and around 8:00pm, he headed out into the night, making his way home with the help of a flashlight.

Coming to work every day, including holidays, Mr. Dilworth looked forward to his afternoons off. On those afternoons, he could visit extended family and deposit some of his wages at the St. Luke’s Penny Saver’s Bank, managed by his wife’s cousin, Maggie L. Walker. On occasion, he treated his children to round-trip rides on the streetcars. On alternating Sunday evenings, he joined his family at evening worship at Mount Vernon Baptist Church. William Dilworth worked at Maymont for six years, leaving after Mrs. Dooley’s death in 1925. Her bequest of $1000 helped him purchase a home on Idlewood Avenue. For a few years, he was headwaiter at the Jefferson Hotel, and from the mid-1930’s until the late 1950’s, he worked as a butler for the J.P. Taylor family on Monument Avenue. He died in 1961 at age 85.

For more on life belowstairs at Maymont, read Elizabeth O’Leary’s “From Morning to Night,” a behind the scenes look at life in the opulent mansion of the Richmond multimillionaire James H. Dooley and his wife, Sallie.

William J. Dilworth, ca. 1956. Photo courtesy of his grandson Harold P. Bailey.
William J. Dilworth, ca. 1956. Photo courtesy of his grandson Harold P. Bailey.