Lady Pastor: Mayowood tour brings Rochester history to life

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Many busloads of people followed the dragon-toothed fence lining Mayowood Road on Saturday. We all made our way out to the Mayowood estate for an open house.

The event was part of the Mayo Clinic Sesquicentennial. The day afforded the chance to cherish the immaculate estate as well as enjoy the golden, maroon, and purple hues of the bountiful chrysanthemum blooms. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of many volunteers, we got to experience the sights, sounds, and sensations of another era. When I witness other people appreciating and learning from history, I am inspired to do the same.

Mayowood is the name for the house and grounds initially built by Dr. Charles and Edith Mayo in 1911. It was donated to the History Center of Olmsted County in 1965; it became the property of Mayo Clinic in 2013. The maintenance of Mayowood is now a collaborative effort between Mayo Clinic, the History Center of Olmsted County, Friends of Mayowood, and Rochester Master Gardeners. During Saturday's event, it was obvious that many individuals were working together behind the scenes to preserve Mayowood in such a way that future generations will be able to learn from its history.

Upon our arrival on Saturday, Mayowood Open House participants had the opportunity to tour the first level of the home. Each room was set up beautifully. Volunteers stood in every room sharing tidbits about how the Mayo family utilized the rooms and their contents. The interior of the home was outstanding and well-preserved.

Outdoor tour


Yet as much as I enjoyed the indoor tour, it was what I learned during the outdoor portion of the day that most piqued my historic interests. My mom, Pam, and I enjoyed a wonderful outdoor tour with a Rochester Master Gardener named Jane. Jane's knowledge of the grounds was extensive. She was a lively storyteller, and her reflections made the space come alive; it felt like we were wandering around the grounds with Charlie and his brother, Will, 100 years ago.

Jane's guidance helped those of us on the tour to get a much deeper understanding of just how much work has been done at Mayowood. From clearing massive amounts of buckthorn to uncovering interesting materials left behind in the estate's many ponds, maintaining Mayowood has obviously been a labor of love. Thanks be to God for people who are willing to toil in order that we might have the chance to understand such an important part of our community's past.

I especially enjoyed hearing about Dr. Charles (Charlie) during the tour. I learned that he had a strong appreciation for farming, nature, and spending time outdoors. One of his quotes was listed on a sign at the estate; Charlie said, "When I leave town and get in the car, all thought of work goes and I concentrate on the farm."

He had varied interests and worked hard to ensure a proper balance between his medical career and other aspects of family and vocation. Charlie also found it very important to reuse and repurpose a wide range of materials; he despised waste. The glass of the estate's greenhouse was originally made of old x-ray plates! Charlie's insights about work/life balance and recycling seem thoroughly modern and applicable for life today.

Inspiring stories

When I got home on Saturday evening, I couldn't wait to learn more about Charlie and Will and their families. So I pulled out an old copy of the 1941 book "The Doctors Mayo" by Helen Clapesattle that I found a few years ago at a garage sale. It's an excellent book and kept me company well into the night. The author wrote, "To the end of their lives Dr. Will and Dr. Charlie struggled to keep the sheer size of the organization from making it an impersonal machine." A priority on personal, intentional patient care and team collegiality continues to prevail, and I have experienced that first-hand.

Through working at Assisi Heights among the Sisters of Saint Francis and learning more about the Mayo family, I am inspired by the history of our city! The roots of Mayo Clinic are centered on the health and healing of everyone needing care. What a legacy all residents of this area have inherited!

Thank you to all those on the Mayo Clinic Sesquicentennial Committee, the History Center of Olmsted County, Friends of Mayowood, and Rochester Master Gardeners for bringing history to life. I am grateful for the ways that a knowledge of the past can inspire and equip us to become the best versions of ourselves in the present.

Related Topics: MAYO CLINIC
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