MYSTERY PHOTO:  Where is this flower growing?

There should be enough clues in this photo that  you can figure out where this flower is growing.  Send your best guess to:  editor@charlestoncurrents.com — and make sure to include the name of the town in which you live.

Several readers correctly identified the Italianate marble palace in the last issue’s mystery as Swannanoa Palace in Afton, Va.  Ian D. Scott, of Charleston, noted, “It’s a nice add-on if you’re touring Virginia wine country. Great views.”  Others who correctly identified the building were Bud Ferillo of Columbia; Marnie Huger of Richmond, Va.; and Charlie Morrison of James Island.

George Graf, the Palmyra, Va., photo sleuth who sent us the picture, shared some interesting information about the Civil War veteran who built the palace as well as the battered South after the war:

“James Henry Dooley was a Southern capitalist who was instrumental in the postwar economic recovery of the south after the Civil War.  His fame and fortune outside of Richmond began with railroads.  He was president of the Richmond and Danville Railroad, which he rebuilt from wartime damages and then extended it into the ‘Deep South.’

Dooley

He was also the director of the Richmond and West Point Railway, and the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway.  As head of the C&O, he tapped into the West Virginia coal fields and brought the coal to the eastern ports.  With Joe Bryan and John Gordon, Dooley then built the Georgia Pacific Railway.  In 1900, he brokered a deal to merge and link 19 separate railway companies into the Seaboard Air Line (SAL) Railway connecting Virginia to Florida and he later became chairman of the SAL executive council.  I believe it went through your Charleston city.

When the Georgia Pacific completed its rail line from Atlanta to Birmingham, Ala., Dooley subsequently invested in the Sloss Iron and Steel Company.  Later he was named to the board when the company owned 60,000 acres of coal land and 30,000 acres of iron ore land.  He was also president of the North Birmingham Land Company and the North Birmingham Street Railway Company that ran a steam powered car from the northern edge of Birmingham to the city center.

Swannanoa Palace was built in 1912 and completed in 1913.  In a 1936 University of Richmond thesis by Robert Harris, it was stated that Swannanoa was one of the most beautiful estates ever built and none in Virginia and few in the United States could match its splendor.  The exterior was marble from Georgia and the interior was Italian marble.

Dooley, a wealthy Richmond lawyer, philanthropist and wounded Confederate war veteran had the palace built as a summer home and a respite from his business worries.  His primary residence was Maymont in Richmond, Va. Swannanoa was built high atop Afton Mountain on the Blue Ridge.  He later donated Maymont and the property to the City of Richmond, which is now a famous Virginia public park with a museum, arboretum, garden and nature center.  Dooley also served as the mayor of Richmond and in the Virginia legislature.  In 1927, President Calvin Coolidge spent five days and Thanksgiving Day at Swannanoa.

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