Mount Airy is the ancestral home of the Tayloe family and served as the gorgeous backdrop to our 2012 Fall Collection photo shoot. The mid-Georgian home completed construction in 1758 and is located on a sprawling 1,400 acres in Richmond County, Virginia. After a morning of duck hunting on the Tappahannock River, the tenth generation Tayloe –John Tayloe Emery took a moment to talk to us about the rich history and future of the place he has had the pleasure to call home for the last 2 years.
Can you tell us about the construction of the house?
The house is reminiscent of an English manor and was built by Colonel John Tayloe II as a means to welcome and entertain guests. Colonel John Tayloe II was inspired by James Gibbs, an influential British architect of the time who specialized in plans for manor houses, and Colonel John Tayloe II implemented the designs to his own liking.
The brown sandstone used in the house was quarried locally on our property. At the time many people told Colonel John Tayloe II that he was crazy because the sandstone would not be strong enough and that it wouldn’t last the test of time. The white sandstone comes from Aquia creek, located north of Fredericksburg, and is the same sandstone that is used for the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol building.
Francis “Lightfoot” Lee is buried on the grounds, what is his relation to the Tayloe family?
John Tayloe II had eight daughters – his eldest, Rebecca Tayloe, was married to Francis “Lightfoot” Lee of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. At the time, John Tayloe II had more property than anyone else in the Commonwealth and was grooming Francis “Lightfoot” Lee to take over his whole estate because he didn’t have any sons. It was really quite a big deal, but finally, John Tayloe II’s ninth child was a son – John Tayloe III.
John Tayloe III was influential in both Virginian and Washington, D.C. circles, could you tell us more about him?
John Tayloe III was a good friend of George Washington and Washington eventually encouraged him to build a house in Washington, D.C., which became known as The Octagon House. When the White House was burned down during the War of 1812, The Octagon House served as the temporary White House for President James Madison and was where the Treaty of Ghent was signed. Tayloe III also owned what is now the Willard InterContinental Hotel, which is where General Grant came up with the word “lobbyist” and where Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote his “I Have a Dream” speech.
What is in the future for Mount Airy?
Most of my family that has lived here in the past has moved to Mount Airy to retire. The family business is commercial farming, but I plan on creating a business that is more than just farming. Mount Airy is a colonial historical home, but I’d like to build it into a greater brand for excellence or for Virginian hospitality. That is what we’ve started doing with opening our home for weddings, guided hunts, and weekend tours. I want to pass this to my children so they can have a working business here when they return after college.
You just came back from a morning of duck hunting on the river. Do you hunt anything else here?
This is 1,400 acres of private property that has some of the best hunting: duck, goose, deer, turkey, and dove. This is where those traditions began and these are the same animals that the Washingtons, Lees, Carters, and Tayloes were hunting 300 years ago on this same property. For the first time, we are opening this up for the public to experience something that I take for granted every day, hunting on these hallowed grounds and walking in the footsteps of George Washington.
What do you enjoy the most about calling Mount Airy home?
I’ve lived in Los Angeles for a long time. I used to be the Creative Director for Bono’s organization, DATA, and spent years and years traveling in Africa for months at a time. It’s nice being back here with my wife and being able to watch our kids grow up here and having them enjoy it. I love it when my kids have their friends over and they go play out in the boxwoods, hunt on the river, and go crazy just being kids and we don’t have to worry about them.
There seems to be a strong sense of Virginian hospitality here.
This really is the definition of it. We try to make each guest feel like a million dollars and this just continues a long tradition here. For the weddings, people usually are married on the front steps and we set out chairs on the front yard. Afterwards, we receive everyone here [in the living room] and then we put out a big white tent out on the bowling green and have a really special time.
There are so many places like this that are now museums with a velvet rope between everything, but here, nothing has really changed. Here you actually get to live it and that is what’s really neat. I just feel really blessed to have all of this in my back yard and to be opening it up and sharing with friends and people who are coming to visit.
Mount Airy is located in Warsaw, Virginia and facilitates tours, guided hunts, and provides the perfect atmosphere for weddings and gala events. For more, visit their website and like their page on Facebook. Shop the 2012 Fall Collection and visit our 2012 Fall Lookbook.