In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

October 9, 2014

Opening a New Door at Mayowood

By In the Loop

The great oak tree at Mayowood, under which the Mayo family picnicked and hatched plans for their future home. The picturesque driveway was lined with trucks, vans and other vehicles of the grounds crew and contractors putting the finishing touches on the historic mansion when we snuck into Mayowood with our cameras a couple weeks before the grand re-opening. We were greeted by the hum of power washers, the sounds of a skid loader, platoons of colorful chrysanthemums, and our host Chuck Potter, who was overseeing a mad dash to get ready for the debut of the newly restored estate last weekend.

Mr. Potter, manager of Mayo historic properties, had agreed to give us a tour and let us capture it on film. He was keen to start on the back patio, under the tree where it all began. The house is built around the great oak, under which it's said Dr. Charles and Edith Mayo and family picnicked and found inspiration one day in the early 1900s. They enjoyed the spot so much that before they left, Dr. Charlie was staking out the outline of what would become Mayowood. That sort of inspiration-turned-into-action is built into the fabric of the house, influencing both how it came together (and came apart and back together again). It also influenced the careful approach that's gone into restoring the piece of living history over the past two years.

Built by Dr. Charles and Edith Mayo in 1911, the 38-room home was donated to the History Center of Olmsted County by their son, Dr. Charles W. Mayo, and his wife, Alice, in 1965. In 2013, Mayo Clinic joined forces with the History Center of Olmsted County, Friends of Mayowood, and Rochester Master Gardeners to restore the home and its grounds, maintaining it as an amenity for the public and a tribute to the Mayo family. Work will continue on the house and grounds, but this past weekend, the doors were opened for a special preview tour as part of Mayo Clinic's Sesquicentennial and Heritage Days. The event also brought the revival of the Mayowood Chrysanthemum Show, a cherished tradition. This year's crop features more than 40 varieties of chrysanthemums in a wide range of colors – about 1,500 mums in all, we're told.

Like the house, Potter is full of stories of the Mayo family. As he told of how the home's various occupants made it their own, he also shared stories of goats and ponies smuggled inside by the children, the seriousness with which the dinner schedule was followed, and famous guests, music and dance that were all part of Mayowood's heyday. He also talked about the meticulous work that has been put in to upgrade, repair and preserve the space, while keeping its history and character intact.

You can hear from Potter yourself in a little video we put together to document our tour. (It's embedded below)

You can also learn a thing or two from the article "9 Things To Discover When Visiting the Historic Mayowood Mansion" from Midwest Home magazine. And share your discoveries while sharing this article with others via the In the Loop blog social media tools.

Tags: Community, History, Mayowood

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