Mount Airy, Richmond County, Virginia
Mount Airy in 1971
|Location:||Richmond County, Virginia|
|Area:||450 acres (180 ha)|
|Added to NRHP:||October 15, 1966|
|Designated NHL:||October 9, 1960|
Mount Airy, near Warsaw in Richmond County, Virginia, built in 1758, is a mid-Georgian plantation house, the first built in the manner of a neo-Palladian villa. It was constructed for Colonel John Tayloe II, perhaps the richest Virginia planter of his generation. Mount Airy is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a National Historic Landmark and on the Virginia Landmark Register. Colonel John Tayloe II's son-in-law, Francis Lightfoot Lee—a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and his wife Rebecca Tayloe, are buried on the estate. Francis Lightfoot Lee was one of only two brothers to sign the Declaration with Richard Henry Lee being the other. Mount Airy was first and foremost a stud horse farm and is still privately owned today by the Tayloe family.
Mount Airy is composed of a massive two-story central block above a high basement, 69 feet (21 m) long and 47 feet (14 m) deep, two curving one-story passageways, and two 36-foot (11 m)-square two-story end dependencies set forward. The five-part unit, 128 feet (39 m) long, encloses three sides of a semi-circular forecourt. This court is raised by a low terrace above the entrance drive and is reached by cut and molded stone steps, flanked by elaborate carved stone vases on pedestals. Set on a ridge, the house commands a wide view of the Rappahannock River Valley. The 3-foot-thick (0.91 m) walls of the central unit are made of dark-brown sandstone, carefully hewn and laid in courses of random height, with architectural trim in light-colored limestone. It is possible that the exterior may originally have been stuccoed though no trace remains. The north or entrance façade is approached from the forecourt by a flight of steps leading to a recessed loggia, whose square columns, faced with four Roman Doric pilasters, define three rectilinear openings. The projecting central pavilion is of rusticated limestone, with three windows in the second story and a crowning pediment. The south or garden facade is almost identical in composition except that the three entrances in the pavilion are spanned by round arches with heavily marked voussoirs and keystones, and the upper windows are unframed. The other windows are framed by stone architraves and sills, and the limestone belt course and rusticated angle quoins are very prominent. The existing broad hip roof, pierced by four interior chimneys located near the ridge, is a replacement of the original roof, possibly a hip-on-hip that was destroyed by fire in 1844.
The south or rear elevation was undoubtedly taken directly from Plate LVIII of James Gibbs' Book of Architecture and the north elevation was less directly derived from a plate of Haddo House in Scotland, shown in William Adam's Vitruvius Scoticus.
The two stone two-story dependencies have hipped roofs and central chimneys and their corners are given the same quoin treatment as the main house. The connecting passageways, also of stone, are quadrants covered with shed roofs that are concealed from the north or front. At the junction with the central block, the roofs of the connections are stepped up to allow entrances to the main floor of the house.
The shaped terraced levels of its gardens are still clearly visible beneath its modern covering of lawn. Mount Airy has the earliest surviving Orangery in North America. A thriving organic vegetable and flower garden exists there today.
The land where Mount Airy is situated was owned by the Tayloe family of Virginia for over one hundred years when Colonel John Tayloe II, a fourth generation tobacco planter, began construction of the house. The project was started around 1748 with completion in 1758 and was actually a horse farm first and foremost. Tayloe used reference books of the day to incorporate architectural themes that give Mount Airy a feeling of strength. Several of racing heritage's greatest horses lived and were bred while at Mount airy and owned or partly owned by John Tayloe II and they included; Sir Archy, Selima and Grey Diomed. The original stable and a few outbuildings including a smokehouse and dairy/ice-house survive to this day. The house has passed through ownership several times, but has always remained within the Tayloe family. Formerly owned by Mrs. H. Gwynne Tayloe, Jr. (died 3 June 2011) it is now owned by Mr. John Tayloe Emery, Sr. and is still a private family residence. It owns a commanding view of the Rappahannock River valley perched upon a small hill looking westward towards the town of Tappahannock.
Col. Tayloe's son-in-law Francis Lightfoot Lee, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was housed nearby, in a house built for him by Col. Tayloe, Menokin Plantation. The grave of Lee and his wife are located in the Tayloe family cemetery, approximately 300 yards (270 m) from Mount Airy.
Current use 
Mount Airy is a private house in the Tayloe family and is not open to the public. The Tayloe family papers are at the Virginia Historical Society.
Listing on National Register of Historic Places 
Mount Airy was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966. It was identified as a National Historic Landmark on October 9, 1960.
See also 
- The Octagon House, mansion built in 1800 by Col. John Tayloe III in Washington, D.C.
- Benjamin Ogle Tayloe House, mansion built on Lafayette Square in Washington
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09.
- "Mount Airy". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-06-27.
- NRHP Inventory, Nomination Form, § 7, Description
- NRHP Inventory, Nomination Form, § 8, Significance
- National Park Service: Mount Airy
- National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places Inventory, Nomination Form, Mount Airy (Francis Lightfoot Lee Grave), May 18, 1971
- Dunn, Richard S. (1977). "A Tale of Two Plantations: Slave Life at Mesopotamia in Jamaica and Mount Airy in Virginia, 1799 to 1828". William and Mary Quarterly (Williamsburg, Virginia) 34 (1): 32–65. doi:10.2307/1922625. JSTOR 1922625.
- Morrison, Hugh (1952). Early American Architecture. New York.
- Pierson, William H., Jr. (1970). American Buildings and Their Architects: The Colonial and Neo-Classical Styles. New York.
- Waterman, Thomas T. (1952). The Mansions of Virginia. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
- Waterman, Thomas T. (1950). The Dwellings of Colonial Virginia. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.