The Mayowood mansion is reviving a grand flower show Sunday at the Rochester home of famed Mayo Clinic founder Dr. Charlie H. Mayo.
Chuck Potter, president of the Friends of Mayowood, said that in 1924 or '25 there were 60,000 chrysanthemums in a long-ago mansion greenhouse and upon the surrounding grounds. Nearly 15,000 people ventured onto the mansion grounds to view them.
On Sunday, nine decades later, Mayowood will open its first floor for public tours costing $10 per person or $20 per family. More than 1,400 chrysanthemums will be on display throughout the estate.
All the flowers are Minnesota-hardy, Potter said, and those at the front of the house will be labeled.
Just two years ago, the future of Mayowood was in doubt. The mansion,completed in 1911, had fallen into disrepair. There was a five-inch slump in part of the foundation that left windows and doors askew. Water seeped in through windows worse than through the building's also-leaking roof.
But time and more than $2 million has been invested to stabilize the building's structure and seal out moisture.
Restoration will be a continuing effort as time and resources allow, said Shawn Pastika, a Mayo Clinic Facilities project manager. Mayo has added features to improve safety, such as curbing at the top of the driveway, and to increase accessibility. Sunday's event will be wheelchair accessible.
When Mayowood and Mayowood Gardens held its chrysanthemum shows in the 1920s, Potter said, there were still some people living in sod houses.
The grandiose Mayowood mansion, with its regal statuary, must have been quite a vision for those of meager means, he said.Contractors and workers have taken personal interest in the restoration, Potter said, taking pride in finding ways to regain the original luster of the site.
"Every day I drive up here, it's just such an amazing reward to have been a part of a project like this,"Pastika said.
It's not been a project for the faint of heart. While Potter, Pastika and others were standing in a room discussing it's future, an electrician yelled from downstairs asking what they were doing.
The ceiling below, he said, was bouncing up and down, with dust flying. Turned out there was zero load-bearing strength in the floor they'd been standing on. Load-bearing braces had to be added, which turned into a major renovation project.
In another room, Potter said, "this is the room that the bats loved." Until the house was sealed, bats would find all kinds of crevices to hide in.
In spots needed modern changes, attempts have been made to include period materials, and materials with historic ties to Mayo Clinic. For example, leftover stone from construction of the Gonda Building has been used in a downstairs accessible restroom at Mayowood.
Also, a railing from the long-gone "1914 Building" was installed in a stairwell, and designers plan to eventually install a photo showing the railing in the 1914 Building.
Potter said 108 Mayo family members visited Mayowood for the clinic's 150th celebration earlier this year.
"Several of them have been back since then, and they are very, very pleased with what's going on," he said.