John Tayloe II (1721-1779) was among the richest planters in colonial Virginia. He was born at what was called the "Old House" on "Tayloe's Quarter" in Richmond County on the Rappahannock River. When his father died he inherited an immense fortune including 20,000 acres and 320 slaves. Tayloe became heir to his father's Neabsco Iron Foundry in Woodbridge and added the Occoquan Ironworks company in 1756. The Woodbridge site was one of the first industrial plantations in Virginia dedicated not only to farming but leatherworking shipbuilding, smithing, and iron works. Tayloe's companies supplied raw materials for cannon balls during the American Revolution. Mount Airy was one of America's largest horse farms before the Civil War, and Tayloe is known for founding the American Thoroughbred. Tayloe's daughter, Rebecaa Plater Tayloe, married Francis Lightfoot Lee, and they lived at nearby Menokin, a plantation given to them by Tayloe. Mary Tayloe was married to Mann Page of Rosewell on the York River. Sarah Tayloe married Colonel William Augustine Washington, brother of Lawrence Washington, George Washington's half brother.
Photo from the Virginia Department of Historical Resources
Mount Airy is a plantation house built in the manner of a neo-Palladian style villa by John Tayloe II between 1758-62 near Warsaw in Richmond County, Virginia. It has a central two story block house flanked by two 36-foot square two- story end dependencies set forward of the main house. The dependencies are connected to the main house by passageways covered with shed roofs. The walls are made of dark-brown sandstone trimmed by lightly colored limestone. It is possible they were originally covered in stucco, but no evidence of this has been found. The north entrance features a recessed loggia with square columns faced with Doric pilasters. The outwardly projecting pavilion is of rusticated limestone with three windows in the second story crowned by a pediment. The south or garden entrance pavilion is nearly identical to the north entrance except that the arches are round and marked with keystones. The sandstone was quarried on the property while Tayloe purchased sandstone from Aquia Creek for the window frames and the pavilion, the same source of stone used for the U.S. Capitol and the White House. The house is one of the earliest examples of Georgian architecture in the colonies. The mansions's expansive terraced gardens were among the most elaborate in Virginia. From the back of the house there is a sunken bowling green, and on the grounds is the earliest surviving Orangery in North America.
George Whythe (1726-1806), photo from Colonial Williamsburg
Dining Room, photo by Roger Foley
Hall, photo from Historic Structures.
Niche in the Loggia, photo by Roger Foley
Great Hall, photo by Roger Foley.
John Tayloe II, builder of Mount Airy, portrait by John Wollaston, picture by Tayloe Cook.