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High atop Afton Mountain on the crest of the Blue Ridge mountains sits Swannanoa, an Italian Renaissance Revival villa. Built in 1912 by James Dooley, the mansion was intended to be a summer retreat for the Dooley family – an escape from Richmond and the Dooley Mansion (now owned and residing within Maymont Park).

Reportedly, it took over 300 artisans eight years to complete the Mansion, which was constructed as a token of love for James’ wife Sallie May.

With James Dooley passing away in 1924, Swannanoa was left entirely to his wife, of whom died a short 2 years later. While it was left to James’ two sisters, the Dooley family occupied the building for only a few years.

In 1926, the Dooley sisters sold Swannaoa to the Valley Corporation of Richmond, who turned it into a country club. It opened in 1929 and operated for only 3 years. During that time, a stone building was constructed on the property, rumored to be a moonshine distillery.

The Mansion stood empty for an extended period of time, until it was leased in 1949 to Walter Russell for his University of Science and Philosophy.

The property is now privately owned by Skyline Swannanoa, who offer limited tours and opportunities to visit the property. You can find more information about Swannanoa on Facebook.

Transcend Paranormal investigated Swannanoa in 2012 & 2013.

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