9 Things To Discover When Visiting the Historic Mayowood Mansion

The historic Mayowood Mansion in Rochester—built in 1911 by Doctor Charles Mayo, co-founder of the Mayo Clinic—was recently restored to its original glory and will re-open this weekend to the public after being closed for extensive renovations.

On Sunday, October 5, the Friends of Mayowood will host an open house at the mansion, in addition to a Chrysanthemum Show. The show was an annual tradition of the Mayo family. In the 1920s and ‘30s, tens of thousands of people visited the mansion to enjoy locally-grown varieties named for the Mayo children. This year, Mayowood will feature  more than 1,400 chrysanthemums of 43 varieties in a wide range of colors, as well as the Mayo Clinic Flower of Hope™, named in honor of the Mayo Clinic Sesquicentennial.

As we get closer to the holidays, make sure to stop back between November 7 and December 13 for the Mayowood holiday open house. See the home decorated for the holidays as it would have been when the Mayo family was living there. Tour guides will be on hand to add anecdotes and answer questions.

Touring the mansion is the perfect opportunity to get a glimpse into the lives of Dr. Charlie and his wife Edith, while discovering stories behind the home’s decor.

Here are nine things to look for while touring the Mayowood Mansion:

Mayowood Living Room Baby Grand Piano

1) A Steinway baby grand piano

Dr. Charlie had a passion for boats. Edith wanted a baby grand piano. Dr. Charlie was showing Edith his new boat and asked what they should name it, when Edith icily replied “How about Baby Grand.” A Steinway Baby Grand was delivered a few days later. 

Mayowood Gilded mirror

2) 13 large gilt mirrors

On one of Dr. Charlie and Edith’s trips to Mexico, they purchased 13 large gilt mirrors and had them shipped up the Mississippi River to Minnesota. Five of them remain in the home today.

Mayowood rocker

3) A double rocker used by the Mayo brothers

A double rocker is located in the study of the home. The Mayo brothers spent many hours sitting side by side in this rocker when they lived next door to each other on what was  College Avenue, now 4th street Southwest, in Rochester. The rocker sat on the front porch of Dr. Charlie’s former home.

4) An autographed Betty Crocker cookbook

There is a Betty Crocker cookbook on display in the kitchen of the home. The inscription is written to Alice Mayo and was signed by Betty Crocker in 1956.

5) Two large, framed Audubon bird prints

In the gallery of the home are two large framed Audubon bird prints. Dr. Charlie felt it was very important to teach his children about nature and the outdoors and used these prints to help them identify birds they had seen on the family’s 3,000 acres of land.

6) Stair railings from the 1914 Mayo Clinic building

The renovation of the mansion includes a new addition, complete with original stair railings from the 1914 Mayo Clinic building. The 1914 building was built on Dr. Charlie’s birth site, the home of his parents, after the home was torn down. When the 1914 building was demolished and the current Sieben’s building was built on its site, someone had the foresight to save the railings. They were stored in Mayo Clinic’s warehouse for approximately 30 years. In 2014 the 100-year-old railings were installed in Mayowood.

Mayowood terrace

7) The restored terrace in front of Mayowood

The terrace on the front of Mayowood was completely rebuilt. The process included drilling 95 pylons (some up to 65-feet deep) which were attached to the bedrock, securing the terrace and the home to the hillside. Molds of the balusters, stairs, and other unique architectural features were recreated. The grand staircase is again structurally safe and a magnificent feature on the front of the home overlooking the gardens, hillside, and the Zumbro River.

Mayowood Chrysanthemum Garden

8) 1,400 Minnesota Hardy Chrysanthemums

For the Chrysanthemum show and open house, over 1,400 Minnesota Hardy Chrysanthemums were planted around the home. Over 40 varieties are featured. In addition to the show, the first floor of the home will be open and attendees will be able to take a walking tour through the home and grounds. Guides will be on site to share information and answer questions.

The mum show revives a tradition started by Dr. Charlie and Edith in 1920. It was open to the public and was held for one week. Newspaper articles from 1924 tell of 60,000 chrysanthemums in bloom and attendance of 14,00 people. It was the largest show of its kind held between New York City and Tacoma, Washington. Money raised from the show was donated to charity.

9) The Mayo Clinic Flower of Hope™

In addition to the mums, the Mayo Clinic Flower of Hope™, named in honor of the Mayo Clinic Sesquicentennial, will be on display. This brilliant yellow flower, a newly developed hybrid coreopsis, expresses the spirit of hope and healing which, in turn, supports the Mayo Clinic’s primary value, “The needs of the patient come first.”

Other not-to-miss features of the home and garden:

  • An ice house
  • A bell used to call the children to dinner
  • The Wee Gnome
  • Helen Keller’s signature
  • Waterford chandelier
  • A tea house
  • The children’s playhouse
  • The Picnic Tree (Before the house was built, the Mayos’ favorite place for picnicking was under a large oak tree. The tree still stands in the courtyard.)
  • The root cellars
  • The children’s dinner table
  • Tempietto

For details and ticket information about the tour, chrysanthemum show, and holiday open house, visit olmstedhistory.com/mayowood-mansion