Open house: Swannanoa set for summer touring
Swannanoa, the sumptuous 1912 Italianate palace near Rockfish Gap, will welcome the general public this year beginning the weekend of Saturday and Sunday, April 10 and 11.
Over eleven weekends, visitors will be able to tour not only the main floor but also the upper reaches including seeing its famed oversized Tiffany window and the towers that once gave Richmond industrialist James H. Dooley impressive views of both the Shenandoah and Rockfish Valleys.
Although trees have since grown up and the ravages of time and weather have taken a toll on the grounds, Swannanoa stands as one of the area's more impressive landmarks. For the $6 price of admission, visitors will be able to roam the house to see everything but the basement and some second floor bedrooms, says James F. "Phil" Dulaney, the lead owner in the consortium that has owned the place since 1942.
Dulaney says he's busy getting the place in order and pointing out that the peak of Afton Mountain received heavier snowfalls than Charlottesville and that at least 20 trees have fallen.
"It was a wild winter up there," says Dulaney. "We were buried under four feet of snow from December to just a couple of weeks ago."
For the latter half of the 20th Century, the mansion was home to an eccentric artist who fancied himself a scientist of life and love, then to his widow, and finally to their followers. However, the so-called University of Science and Philosophy moved out in 1998. Since then, Dulaney has made sporadic efforts to rehabilitate the property as a luxury inn.
"I've got a lot of plans," says Dulaney, who also owns the mouldering mountaintop assemblage of wrecked guest cottages closer to Interstate 64, "but a lot of it depends on the economy."
The house, located atop Afton Mountain, will be open April 10-11, May 1-2, June 5-6, July 3-4, August 7-8 and 14-15, September 4-5 and 11-12, October 2-3, 9-10, and 16-17 from noon to 5pm with an admission fee of $6 and kids free. Tickets sold on site. 540-942-5201