Southern Agenda

Love Shrine

These days, lovestruck couples rely on sports arena jumbotrons or skywriters to publicly spell out their affection in pixels or puffs of airplane exhaust. But at the turn of the twentieth century, James H. Dooley, a Virginia businessman and the owner of Maymont, Richmond’s Gilded Age estate turned park, chose to honor his wife, Sarah “Sallie” May, with the construction of what is still the largest Tiffany glass window in a private home in America. When the couple built their summer abode, Swannanoa, a Blue Ridge Mountain Italianate marble manor, he ordered a four-thousand-piece, twelve-by-twelve-foot testament to their love, with her image glowing at its center. “I always tell grooms having weddings here, ‘Mr. Dooley built all this for his wife; you’re going to have to step it up!’” says Adrianne Boyer, a director at the private property, which is also decked out with oak parquet flooring, coffered ceilings, and cherubic frescoes. Swannanoa sat abandoned and exposed to the elements during the Great Depression, but it’s still remarkably intact, with scheduled dates for public visits running through late fall.