Richmond's Maymont features historical exhibit of domestic workers

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - February is dedicated to celebrating Black history, and there is certainly a lot of it in Virginia- especially downstairs at the Maymont mansion.

You will find lots of fascinating stories, many of which most likely started in the kitchen.

The kitchen is where Frances Walker spent most of her time as head cook in the early 1900s. It had modern amenities like a gas burning stove. However, Mrs. Walker preferred food prepared in the "old" way.

"Mrs. Walker had use of the coal burning stove, and, again, it's more of the old-fashioned method, something that she was very familiar with, and able to really know the inner workings of a coal-burning stove," said historical tours and interpretation manager Kathy Alcaine.

Mrs. Walker's story is just one of many shared in the "Downstairs" exhibit at Maymont.

It highlights the experiences of the domestic indoor staff who worked for the Dooley family- one of the richest families of that time.

It was the staff's job to make sure all 12,000 square feet of the mansion ran properly.

Many of them worked thirteen hour days to do just that - especially the two maids. They shared a bedroom, and that is where slept and worked.

"The hot irons are wrapped in cloth and then used to iron all the clothes, and every piece of clothing, linens, sheets, everything would need to be ironed, and it would be, I imagine, a day-long event, and any free time would be given up for ironing," said Alcaine.

Maymont visitors get a glimpse of life "downstairs", thanks to the stories and even artifacts passed down from the workers' descendants, who believed their stories are an important part of Maymont's history.

The exhibit reveals there is a lot more to the beautiful Victorian home than meets the eye.

Guided tour of the "Downstairs" exhibit will be held for the next two Saturdays, beginning at 12:30 p.m.

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