Gilded Age Technology

The Industrial Revolution ended in 1840, and the Age of Invention and Gilded Age followed. James Dooley (1841-1922) used the wealth he acquired during this time to have the most modern conveniences in his home at Maymont.


Maymont has 13 fireplaces that were probably used for ambiance and perhaps for heating during the spring and fall when the main furnace was turned off. The primary central heating came from a coal furnace located in the basement. The furnace sent heat through its pipes and into registers in the basement ceiling. It also fed registers in the walls of rooms on the first and second floors.


The Dooleys had a double ram pump system that elevated clean spring water from the creek, Dooley Branch, to the water tower in the Garage through hydraulic pressure. These pumps pumped about 2,000 gallons per day. The water came into the house behind the dumbwaiter in the basement and through the wall to the kitchen. The pipe can be seen to right of basement Dumbwaiter cabinet.

A second pump system, run by gasoline powered engines, was installed near the Grotto in 1908. It first elevated water to the Stone Barn, Water Tower and Cascade Fountain and eventually provided water to the Italian Garden (1910-1911), Grotto (1911) and Japanese Garden waterfall (1912). Water for these features comes from the Kanawha Canal and is not used when canal water becomes too low.

While only 40% of homes in Richmond in 1893 had indoor plumbing, the mansion at Maymont had five bathroom units including two full baths on the second floor.

Electricity and Gas

Electricity appears to have initially been provided to Maymont by direct current (DC) power. It is believed that the power came from the power stations that ran the Trolley line installed by Frank Sprague between 1887 and 1888. Richmond was home of the first fully operational trolley line in the country. It was removed in the 1940s.

Nearly all original Maymont lighting fixtures are “transitional,” meaning they were dual purpose during the transition from gas/candle light to electricity. They contain both electric and gas fixtures. Most of the gas fixtures on the main floors are in candle form. Some have globes.

The home had at least two phones. A crank style phone is displayed in the pantry and was used primarily by the Butler. The phone in the Smoking Den was for Mr. Dooley’s use.


The existing elevator is a 1910 Otis elevator installed 17 years after the Dooleys moved to Maymont. The shaft was there from 1893 and could have housed an early version of the Otis elevator or perhaps another form of Dumbwaiter.

An iron and toaster are on display in the Maymont Mansion basement to reflect use of Edison electrical configurations. The manual sweeper in the Pantry was an early aide to cleaning other than with a broom.