“Art is the only way to run away without leaving home.” -Twyla Tharp
The Hermitage Museum and Gardens is the first museum of Norfolk, Virginia and was established by Florence Sloane in her 42 room mansion that is situated on a 12-acre peninsula on the banks of the Lafayette River. The mansion is the former home of the Sloane family and is now a museum that is part of the prestigious Smithsonian Affiliations program and accredited by the American Alliance of Museums.
The Sloane family and the mansion
In 1893, William and Frances Sloane came to Hampton Roads from New York to operate textile mills. Construction began in 1903 on what was to be their summer home named, “Hermitage.” The 42 room, art and crafts style home was completed in 1936 and became the Sloane’s primary residence.
The Sloanes were the driving force behind the arts in Norfolk and they were instrumental in the founding of the Norfolk Museum of Arts and Sciences which is now the Chrysler Museum.
The Sloanes also established the Hermitage Foundation, a non-profit organization with the goal of encouraging the development of arts and crafts and to promote the arts within the community. The mansion and grounds became part of the foundation and the museum was opened to the public in 1942. Florence remained in residence at the home until her death in 1953.
The Sloane Collection
The Hermitage Museum features a nationally recognized art collection spanning 5,000 years. As educated art collectors, the Sloanes amassed their personal collection over 50 years that includes over 2,800 objects of Chinese, Indian, Spanish, and European art.
Today, the Hermitage collection continues to serve the Sloane’s original purpose: “to encourage the development of Arts and Crafts and to promote the study and understanding of art as a living and progressive influence in the consciousness of the public.”
The gardens of the Hermitage include formal gardens as well as natural woodlands and trails. The grounds are surrounded by wetlands along the banks of the Lafayette River. The gardens prominently feature 111 distinct millstones, many of which welcome visitors in the Millstone Courtyard.
Today, the Hermitage Gardens are a beautiful, picturesque location for weddings and special events and the gardens have unique seasonal beauty no matter what season of the year you might visit.
Plan your visit
If you are visiting the Hampton Roads area, visiting the Hermitage is a great way to spend the afternoon. As locals, it is a hidden gem worth repeat visits. The Hermitage is peaceful, quiet, educational, beautiful, and a family-friendly place.
How to find them: https://hermitagemuseum.org
Hours: Tuesday through Sunday, 10 am- 5 pm
7637 North Shore Road, Norfolk, VA 23505
Museum Admission: free through 2021
Be sure to visit and enjoy your time at the Hermitage Museum and Gardens.
**Sources for this blog: www.hermitagefoundation.org and information provided via the self-guided tour.