Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

Most everyone has heard of the Mayo Clinic. Perennially ranked as the top hospital in the U.S., the Mayo Clinic is a nonprofit organization based in Rochester, Minn. that cares for more than one million patients annually. It’s also home to the beautiful Mayowood Mansion – built in 1911 by Dr. Charlie and Edith Mayo. The Mayowood Mansion is one of the best historical home tours in Minnesota.

Why is Mayo Clinic located in Rochester, Minnesota?

Have you ever wondered how or why a world-renowned health care facility is located in a rural part of Minnesota? Granted, Rochester, is no longer a rural community (the third largest city in Minnesota), but the metropolitan city still has its country roots vibe.

It never really crossed my mind how or why Mayo Clinic was located in Rochester, Minnesota – just 90 minutes from where I live in the southern metro of the Twin Cities. In fact, I didn’t know anything about its origins. At least not until the fall of 2019 when my husband and I took some historical tours as guests of the History Center of Olmsted County and the Mayowood Mansion.

History of the Mayo family and the Mayowood Mansion

I’m all about history and historical homes and am now completely fascinated by the Mayo family – progressive and innovative humanitarians, they disrupted health care in a good way.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt thanked the Mayo brothers (Dr. Charlie and Dr. Will) for their medical care of World War I veterans, naming them “teachers of America.” Photo courtesy of the History Center of Olmsted County and Mayowood Mansion.

“Perhaps somebody may run across these lines in fifty or hundred years and comment with tolerant pity: ‘Well, he had a glimmering of vision, anyways!’”- Dr. Charlie Mayo

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Please also note that my husband and I were guests of the History Center of Olmsted County and the Mayowood Mansion. However, all opinions are my own.

Mayo Brothers exhibit at the History Center of Olmsted County

Dr. Charles H. Mayo and Dr. William J. Mayo - two of the founding members of the Mayo Clinic.

Charles H. Mayo, M.D., aka Dr. Charlie, on the left, (1865-1939) was a head and neck surgeon. He served as president of the American Medical Association 1917-1918.

Dr. William J. Mayo, aka Dr. Will, on the right, (1861-1939) specialized as a stomach surgeon, and served as president of the American Medical Association 1906-1907.

Extremely close, the Mayo brothers built city houses side-by-side in Rochester (heard there was talk that they even wanted to build a connecting library, but the wives said no). They also died within months of each other.

You can read about our visit to the History Center of Olmsted County, which features an exhibit about the Mayo brothers who founded the Mayo Clinic alongside their father, Dr. William Worrall Mayo.

Who were the founders of the Mayo Clinic?

On a related note, several practice physician partners were also instrumental in the foundation of the Mayo Clinic (Dr. Will favored listing all the partners, but a shorter name was more convenient). Those practice physician partners (along with Dr. Will Mayo and Dr. Charlie Mayo) were Augustus Stinchfield, Henry Stanley Plummer, Christopher Graham, E. Starr Judd, Melvin Millet and Donald Balfour. It moved from a private practice to what is now known as the not-for-profit Mayo Clinic.

Other historical exhibits and buildings at the History Center of Olmsted County in Rochester, MN

In addition to the Mayo Brothers exhibit, the History Center of Olmsted County’s 54-acre campus also features some other really cool historical exhibits and buildings from the 1800s. The history center also includes an original farmstead, one-room schoolhouse, log cabin and a cave where two families lived their first winter. Talk about embracing winter in Minnesota! (And here I can’t even go outside without my North Face gloves and Under Armour turtleneck and Under Armour leggings.) Learn more in my post: Historical things to do in Rochester, Minnesota.

Edith Mayo – the other Mayo

I’m also especially intrigued by Edith Mayo, wife of Charles H. Mayo (aka Dr. Charlie). She was the first trained nurse in Minnesota and worked for the Mayo brothers’ father before falling in love and marrying his son.

My husband purchased a book about Edith Mayo in the Mayowood Mansion gift shop, Mrs. Charlie – The Other Mayo, by Judith Hartzell (as well as some notecards). Her contributions to the healthcare industry and society are inspiring – among them: training the Sisters of St. Francis, who opened Saint Mary’s Hospital in 1889, and being named American Mother of the Year in 1940).

Mayo Clinic timeline at a glance

Dr. W.W. Mayo (the father of Dr. Will and Dr. Charlie) was a country physician who first moved to Rochester, MN in 1863 as an examining surgeon for the Union Army recruiting board during the Civil War. Two years later, Dr. W.W. Mayo started his private practice.

Fast forward a couple of decades and his sons, Dr. Will and Dr. Charlie, joined him – with their path eventually leading them (and the other partner physicians mentioned previously) to create the not-for-profit Mayo Clinic.

The sons of the Mayo Brothers

The sons of Charles H. (Charles W. aka Dr. Chuck and Joseph G.) followed in their father’s footsteps and in the 1920s helped evolve Mayo Clinic into today’s world-renowned medical facility. Still making history today, you can find a timeline of the Mayo Clinic online.  

Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota
Mayo Clinic | Rochester, Minnesota

Naturally curious and always seeking better ways, the Mayo brothers were visionary and philanthropic pioneers in the medical field. Examples include the creation of a multi-specialty group practice, salaried physicians and donating their estates, which eventually became the not-for-profit Mayo Foundation.

There’s so much more fascinating history about the Mayo Clinic and the family. I highly encourage you to visit the History Center of Olmsted County and tour the Mayowood Mansion to learn more.

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Take a virtual tour of Mayowood Mansion

I invite you to take a virtual tour of our visit of one of the best and most beautiful historic homes in Minnesota.

Virtual tour of Mayowood Mansion in Rochester, MN

Until you get an opportunity to visit the Mayowood Mansion yourself, I’ll share some highlights from our tour of the beautiful 38-room home built by Dr. Charlie and Edith Mayo in 1911.

Mayowood Mansion in Rochester, MN
Photo courtesy of the History Center of Olmsted County and Mayowood Mansion

My husband and I have toured many historical homes over the years and my husband claims Mayowood Mansion is his favorite ever. What I loved about this historical home especially is that even though it’s a sprawling mansion (or what they called The Big House), it feels like a warm and inviting home where families live – not a museum or a showpiece. Definitely has some good energy.

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Exterior of a large historical mansion - Mayowood Mansion in Rochester, MN
Mayowood Mansion is especially beautiful to tour in the fall.

Mayowood Mansion tours

The Mayowood Mansion, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is typically open for public tours late March to late October (Tuesdays through Saturdays) and special Christmas tours early November to mid-December. You can purchase tickets and check the historic Mayowood Mansion tour hours on the History Center of Olmsted County website.

While the Mayo Clinic owns the Mayowood Mansion and its remaining 10 acres it sits on, the history center manages the tours.

Travel tip: The Mayowood Mansion is one of the stops (and best places to visit) on the Rochester City and Mayo Historical Trolley Tours. Public tours are seasonal.

Christmas at Mayowood Mansion

Bannister decorated in Christmas garland, red bows, white lights and decorations - Mayowood Mansion in Rochester, MN
Photo courtesy of History Center of Olmsted County and Mayowood Museum

They really know how to deck the halls and staircase for Christmas at the Mayowood Mansion. See related posts: Best holiday historical home tours in Minnesota

Piano at Mayowood Mansion in Rochester, MN
Photo courtesy of History Center of Olmsted County and Mayowood Museum

Cute story behind this piano. Since the Mayos entertained guests at Mayowood Mansion so much, Edith Mayo thought they should purchase a baby grand piano. But her husband said it was too expensive and too big. One day Dr. Charlie shared the great news that he had bought a new boat for the family to travel on the Mississippi River. He asked Edith what they should name it.

“Baby Grand,” was her response.

That did become the name of the boat and a baby grand piano was delivered to the Mayowood Mansion the next day.

The Mayos believed art and music were essential to the healing process – and the Mayo Clinic still believes that today (a piano sits in the clinic’s lobby, which patients and visitors play).

Christmas at Mayowood Mansion in Rochester, Minnesota
Photo courtesy of History Center of Olmsted County and Mayowood Museum

Speaking of Christmas: Looking for a unique and practical gift ideas or experiences the traveler or bookworm on your list will love? Then check out my favorite things: a gift guide for wanderlusts, day hikers and bookworms.

Mayowood Mansion back in the day: a historical timeline

All historical photos and interior shots shared in this blog post are courtesy of the History Center of Olmsted County and the Mayowood Mansion. Exterior shots of this historic home were taken by my husband, Steve, and me.

Mayowood Mansion in Rochester, Minnesota
Photo courtesy of History Center of Olmsted County and Mayowood Museum

The library is my favorite room that we saw on the Mayowood Mansion tour. We learned that Dr. Charlie was all about upcycling – finding creative ways to reuse products. For example, he paneled this library from lumber salvaged from a schoolhouse that had been damaged in a fire.

I also learned from the “Mrs. Charlie – The Other Mayo” book that Dr. Charlie had the contractors reinforce the concrete wall at Mayowood Mansion with old farm equipment found in a junkyard.

Mayowood Mansion in Rochester, Minnesota
Photo courtesy of History Center of Olmsted County and Mayowood Museum

The beautiful living room at the Mayowood Mansion is the largest of the 38 rooms in the home.

Mayowood Mansion in Rochester, Minnesota
Photo courtesy of History Center of Olmsted County and Mayowood Museum

Entertainment at Mayowood Mansion

The Mayos entertained frequently at their country home, Mayowood Mansion – from doctors to neighbors to royalty to athletes to actors and other celebrities. Dr. Charlie would sit at the middle of the table so that he could see everyone in the concave mirror that’s hung above the fireplace.

The Charles H. and Edith Mayo family: Photo courtesy of the History Center of Olmsted County and Mayowood Mansion

Mayowood Mansion photo gallery

Even though it was overcast and sprinkling during our visit, the weather did not dampen the beauty during our Mayowood Mansion tour on a fall day.

Enjoy this virtual tour of one of the best historical homes in Minnesota: The Mayowood Mansion in Rochester, MN.

Front exterior image of the Mayowood Mansion in Rochester, Minnesota
Entrance to the Mayowood Mansion in Rochester, Minn.

gazebo overlooking fall colors on the trees and a large terrace at Mayowood Mansion in Rochester, Minnesota
View from the terrace at Mayowood Mansion

A large terrace with statues, deck furniture, urns of fall mums with fall foliage and trees in the background at Mayowood Mansion in Rochester, MN
Beautiful wraparound terrace at Mayowood Mansion in Rochester, Minnesota
Courtyard at Mayowood Mansion in Rochester, MN
Mayowood Mansion courtyard

Envisioning Mayowood Mansion

The Mayo family visited their country property, mainly for picnics, for years before the Mayowood Mansion was built. It was during one of these picnics when Dr. Charlie described the type of home he wanted to build. To help his family visualize their future home (Mayowood Mansion), he used twigs and twine to mark up individual rooms.

An old-fashioned dinner bell next to a vegetable cellar and fall trees - Mayowood Mansion

Edith Mayo used this dinner bell to summon her family for mealtimes at Mayowood Mansion.

Japanese garden in the fall at Mayowood Mansion
Asian influence was prominent on the grounds and gardens of Mayowood Mansion

Fall foliage, mums and gate at the Mayowood Mansion in Rochester, Minnesota
Fall is especially a beautiful time to tour the historic Mayowood Mansion and its beautiful gardens.

Fall foliage and mums on the porch at the Mayowood Mansion in Rochester, Minnesota
A beautiful view of the Mayowood Mansion grounds and gardens from its vast terrace.

Fall foliage and path at the Mayowood Mansion in Rochester, Minnesota
Stunning fall foliage at Mayowood Mansion in Rochester, Minnesota

The Mayowood Mansion eventually grew to 3,000 acres; however, eventually the family had to sell off acreages. The property is now at 10 acres.

Statue of a woman above two headstones with fall mums and fall leaves at Mayowood Mansion
Gravesites of Dr. Chuck and Edith Mayo at Mayowood Mansion in Rochester, MNM

This statue named Winter overlooks the gravesites of Dr. Chuck and Alice Mayo, the son and daughter-in-law of Dr. Charlie and Edith Mayo, who also lived in the home in later years.

The epitaph reads:

Grieved not I or she
The cause is just
And surely in reunion is reprieve

Plan your visit to one of the best places to visit in Minnesota: The historical Mayowood Mansion in Rochester, MN

These images of the Mayowood Mansion and garden are just a glimpse of what you can expect to appreciate when you are looking for things to do in Rochester, Minn.

A special thank you to the History Center of Olmsted County and the Mayowood Mansion for hosting us on our tours and providing interior images for this post.

Pin it for later: The historic Mayowood Mansion


Twin Cities-based blogger sharing memorable emptynester, solo, family and girlfriend-getaway adventures, as well as my day hiking adventures (including all 66 Minnesota state parks), latest book reviews, and updates on my quest for the best adult mac and cheese. Also two WIPs: historical fiction and psychological thriller


  1. It would be informative if you mentioned and credited the other founders of the Mayo Clinic – Drs. Millet, Plummer, Judd, Graham, Stinchfield, and Balfour. It was a private practice until the Founders created the non-profit Mayo Clinic and Mayo Foundation until 1919 or so.

    1. Great idea! I integrated their names into the blog post. So much history I need to learn about! Thanks for reading my post and for the suggestion.

  2. I don’t know what is more beautiful, the fall foliage outdoors or the Christmas decorations inside? This place is gorgeous! So much fun to discovery the history of such an amazing place! Thanks!

    1. So adorable! I loved the family photos also and grateful the Mayowood Mansion and History Center of Olmsted County gave me permission to post them. They really provide perspective from back in the day.

  3. Interesting to read about the history of the Mayo clinic, I’ve heard of it, but didn’t know much about it. Touring the mansion is also great, those grounds surrounding it.

  4. I love history and historical homes so if I ever get to Rochester I will definitely visit. I am wondering if your Olmsted County is named after the great landscape architect who designed the gardens at the Biltmore Estate here in Asheville NC?

    1. I hope you get the opportunity to visit Mayowood Mansion and Rochester, MN…so many historical things to do here. I’m not sure about the county name origin…will look into it. I’ve been to Biltmore…so beautiful!

  5. How fascinating! I had no idea Mayo Clinic had such an interesting past. history! The mansion looks really beautiful. Definitely a place I would visit! 🙂

  6. I had no idea there was such rich history here in the healthcare area, so fascinating. The decorations in the mansion at Christmas time are gorgeous!

    1. I was very surprised to learn all about the history in Rochester, MN. And absolutely loved touring Mayowood Mansion. So beautiful especially at Christmas.

  7. Very fascinating post! I always refer to the Mayo Clinic when researching medical (which has been often lately). I got a good chuckle when reading about the boat and the baby grand piano. I will definitely want to visit the Mayo Mansion if I visit Rochester.

    1. Thank you so much! Touring Mayowood Mansion is one of the best things to do in Rochester, MN.I thought that was a super cute story about the boat and the baby grand.

  8. What an amazing home! It always makes me so happy to see these historic homes not only saved and preserved but open to the public to share their beauty and history.

    1. It makes me happy too when they preserve historic homes. Especially love that they opened up Mayowood Mansion to the public. One of the best things to do in Rochester, Minnesota.

  9. The Mayowood Mansion looks beautiful and such a fascinating place to visit! I’d love to visit at Christmas to admire it with the decorations! Thanks for the great guide!

    1. Thank you and my pleasure! Mayowood Mansion in Rochester, Minnesota is so beautiful…one of our favorite historic homes we’ve toured.

  10. Wow – who knew the Mayo Clinics stemmed from such scenic origins? It looks like they dress the mansion up especially cute for Christmas! Thanks for sharing

    1. Thanks and my pleasure…love sharing what we discover. The Mayowood Mansion in Rochester, MN is especially beautiful during Christmas.

  11. I have heard of the Mayo clinic and knew it was one of the top in the world but I never knew how it got its name. Thanks for the history. The mansion looks quite stately.

  12. Thanks so much for sharing such a detailed guide! The mansion looks filled with so much history and beautiful antiques. I also really love that you can do a virtual tour!

  13. Really interesting to see the Mayowood Mansion. It looks amazing to visit at Christmastime! I love seeing all the old photos and hearing the stories like the baby grand. It’s great to hear they still believe art and music are essential to the healing process.

    1. Thank you. I love how Mayo Clinic sees the healing relationship with art and music. And the historic Mayowood Mansion in Rochester, Minnesota is so beautiful.

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