At Home at Mayowood: Dr. Charlie's Love of the Country
Dr. Charles H. Mayo, the younger Mayo brother, was an avid agriculturalist and conservationist. His concerns for the land and its wildlife anticipated the best of today's thinking on the subjects and was reflected in living choices.
The land that comprised Mayowood, the country home which he named and completed in 1911, began as a small acreage and ultimately grew to encompass more than 3,000 acres and eight farms. Dr. Charlie designed it himself and, according to biographer Helen Clapesattle, "persuaded the contractor to use walls of poured concrete with an intervening air space for insulation." Mayowood is one of a few 20th century homes of historical significance in the Upper Midwest to have used concrete to a large degree.
The house was built with no particular architectural style in mind, but rather combines an exterior that resembles an Italian villa with an interior like that of a comfortable English country home. It was considered one of the most unusual estates in the Upper Midwest. On it, Dr. Charlie either raised, fed or protected a variety of animals, fish and birds. Mayowood was a game refuge where no shooting was permitted. The origins of Rochester's famous geese -- which sometimes number in the thousands -- stems from Dr. Charlie's decision to feed Canadian honkers on his country estate. Dr. Charlie devoted a goodly portion of his land to developing groves of trees and underbrush to help control erosion and provide space for recreation. As time passed and his interest in agriculture grew, he added more parcels of land, as well as a fine dairy herd.
His wife, Edith, joked about him being a farmer, but he said: "I am not a farmer ... I am an agriculturalist." "And what's the difference?" she asked. "In the first place an agriculturalist makes his money in town and spends it on the farm; while a farmer makes his money on the farm, and spends some of it in town," he said. "Also, a farmer eats all he can't sell, while an agriculturalist sells all he can't eat."
Dr. Charlie considered farming restorative activity. He observed, "... when I leave town and get in the car, all thought of work goes and I concentrate on this farm."
Among the guests at Mayowood were Helen Keller and President Franklin D. Roosevelt.