A Brief history...

Mount Airy

Mount Airy

The land where Mount Airy is situated had been owned by the Tayloe family of Virginia since 1682 when Colonel John Tayloe II, a fourth generation tobacco planter, began construction of the house using a mixture of enslaved and indentured laborers combined with highly-talented masons and woodworkers. The project was started around 1758 with completion in 1764 and was a horse stud farm first and foremost. Local brown sandstone was quarried here on the property with the white accent stone coming from nearby Aquia Creek.

Colonel Tayloe used reference books of the day to incorporate architectural themes that give Mount Airy a feeling of strength. Several of racing heritage's greatest horses lived and were bred while at Mount Airy and owned or partly owned by John Tayloe II; including, Selima, Sir Archie and Grey Diomed. The original carriage house stable and a few outbuildings including a smokehouse, school house, counting room and dairy/ice-house stand to this day. The oldest surviving Orangery in North America is also here at Mount Airy.

An architectural masterpiece, the home owns a commanding view of the Rappahannock River valley perched upon a small hill looking westward towards the town of Tappahannock, founded itself in 1608 by Captain John Smith. The estate borders Catpoint Creek to the north and the Tayloe Wildlife Refuge to the west.

Col. Tayloe's son-in-law Francis Lightfoot Lee, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was housed nearby, in a manor built for him by Col. Tayloe, known as Menokin.

The grave of Francis Lightfoot Lee and his wife Rebecca Tayloe are located in the Tayloe family cemetery on the Mount Airy estate.

Beloved father, husband, brother and grandfather, the late Lt. Colonel Henry Gwynne Tayloe, Jr, a decorated veteran of WWII and Korea and a 1936 graduate of VMI, grew up in Middleburg, Va., retired to Mount Airy and lived happily here for many years with his wife Polly Montague of Charleston, SC and their children Anne, Courtenay, William and Gwynne, Jr. and an assembly of Labrador Retrievers, English Setters, German Shepherds and Dachshunds.

Colonel Tayloe’s grandson, John Tayloe and wife Catherine, their two sons, as well as a few chickens, some upland bird dogs and a growing family of Labrador Retrievers manage the estate today hosting tours and travelers, students and family who visit from afar.


Hon. John Tayloe III (1770 –1828) was prominent in business, government, and social circles. He was the son of John Tayloe II, builder of Mount Airy. A highly successful plantation owner, he took an active part in public affairs.

As a military officer, he also served in the Virginia General Assembly and Senate of Virginia for nine years. Among his guests at Mount Airy were men of the American Revolution, including the Marquis de Lafayette and his wife Marie.

John Tayloe was a Federalist and a close personal friend of General George Washington. Several letters between the two men still exist to this day and are housed in the University of Virginia's private collection.

At Washington's insistence, John Tayloe built the Octagon House in Washington, D.C. in 1799, residing there in the winter. The Octagon served as the temporary home of President and Mrs. Madison during the war of 1812 after the burning of the White House by the British. The Treaty of Ghent ending the war was signed there.

A noted tursfman, Tayloe helped found the sport of thoroughbred horse racing in America.

As Captain of Dragoons, he went to Western Pennsylvania, to help put down the Whiskey Rebellion. In 1799, he was appointed Major of Light Dragoons, U. S. A. by President John Adams. When General Washington wrote to Tayloe a warm letter of congratulation, Tayloe hesitated to accept the commission as he had just been elected as a Federalist to the Virginia Senate, and he feared, as he wrote to Washington, that if he resigned his seat, the place would be filled by an opponent of the administration. On February 12, 1799, Washington replied that he was inclined to believe his civil service would be more important than military service. Tayloe served in the Virginia House of Delegates and the Senate of Virginia, as Delegate and Senator. On the breaking out of the War of 1812, Tayloe was made commander of the cavalry of the District of Columbia, and saw active service.