Ellie Wood Keith Genealogy

Mary Wilson Mason

Mary Wilson Mason

Female 1877 - 1961  (83 years)

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  • Name Mary Wilson Mason 
    Nickname May 
    Born 8 Aug 1877  Charles Town, WV Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Female 
    History At 503 Rugby Road, one could find the house of Mrs. Mary “May” Speed—a descendent of George Mason, author of the Virginia Bill of Rights—who, before she moved to Charlottesville, was appointed by President Woodrow Wilson to the National Board of Review, which picked movies to be shown to American troops abroad. She also lectured for the Film Selection Commission and was assistant principal at Gunston Hall School in Washington, D.C., for three years after her husband died in 1915. In 1928, she bought a two-story wood frame house on Rugby Road for $24,500. Her love of the arts was reflected in the creative arts gallery she opened in a large parlor on the first floor, of which the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported, “Her exhibits open with parties which are truly gala; even if you don’t care about art, you can’t afford to miss the parties, because there is good food and drink and entertaining company, and the first thing you know you are wanting to buy a picture.”  [1
    History Mrs. Mary \"May\" Speed was part of wealthy Virginia society and the great-great-great-granddaughter of George Mason, author of the Virginia Bill of Rights. Speed moved to Charlottesville because she had connections to the city itself: her sister Ellie Wood Page operated a boarding house on the nearby Corner (Elliewood Avenue was named for her daughter).

    This proprietress was unique. Her husband, Philip Speed, was morning editor of the New York World when they married in 1905. In New York, Speed led opposition to motion picture censorship. During World War I, President Woodrow Wilson appointed her to the National Board of Review, which chose motion pictures to be shown to American troops at home and overseas. Later she traveled and lectured for the Film Selection Commission headed by Will Hays. After her husband died in 1915, Speed was appointed assistant principal at Gunston Hall in Washington, D.C. from 1916–1919. Speed moved to Charlottesville in 1920.

    Although it is unknown when the house at 503 Rugby Road was built, the Zeta Psi Fraternity owned it until it sold the house to Lee and Isabel Williamson in November 1924. The Williamsons rented it to Speed as a boarding house; she bought it four years later for $24,500.

    Speed\'s two-story wood frame house with a slate or tin roof was domestic in scale. Mrs. Eliza Meyers, Speed’s niece, recalls that the house had a gray stuccoed finish and a front porch. The male and female boarders were separated: Mrs. Speed and her daughter lived on the first floor while three to four female boarders occupied the second floor. Male students lived in the rear one-story annex.

    Like the owner, this house was unique–part of the downstairs parlor was referred to as the “Creative Arts Gallery,” exhibiting art by Grandma Moses, among others. Speed’s goal was to provide a meeting place for artists and their patrons, creating a very unique, “bohemian” environment.

    Though there was a sense of salon culture, Speed is portrayed as a maternal figure who encouraged personal growth while providing lodging. Henrietta Heath, a reporter for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, remembers, “Mrs. Speed’s house on Rugby Road has been the home of hundreds of students at the University of Virginia. Herself a thoroughly natural and unaffected individual, she has provided the students under her roof with a splendid example of mature living.” Speed is depicted as a maternal figure, morally guiding the students who boarded with her until her death in 1961.

    The house was abandoned and fell into disrepair during the 1970s. In 1977 the Kappa Kappa Gamma Sorority bought the property, demolished the dilapidated boarding house and erected their current sorority dwelling.  [2
    Died 15 Feb 1961 
    Person ID I1000380  Ellie Wood Keith
    Last Modified 16 Dec 2017 

    Father James Murray Mason, Jr.,   b. 25 Aug 1839, District of Columbia, USA? Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 10 Jan 1923, Charlottesville, VA Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 83 years) 
    Relationship putative 
    Mother Eliza Hill,   b. 14 Apr 1842, Wilmington, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 10 Jun 1902, Charlottesville, VA Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 60 years) 
    Relationship putative 
    Married 29 Sept 1892  [3, 4
    Family ID F1000103  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Phillip Speed,   d. Yes, date unknown 
    Married 15 Feb 1905  Charlestown, WV Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Last Modified 21 Feb 2017 
    Family ID F1000157  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Photos
    Mary (May) Speed
    Mary (May) Speed
    Ellie Wood Keith and little May Speed
    Ellie Wood Keith and little May Speed

  • Sources 
    1. [S33] UVA Magazine, http://uvamagazine.org/articles/the_golden_age_of_the_rooming_house_matrons.

    2. [S34] University of Virginia Archives, http://www.arch.virginia.edu/housinghistory/BH/RugbyRd.htm.

    3. [S29] Descendants of Mason, Charles Mason, MD, http://www.genealogy.com/ftm/m/a/s/Charles-Mason-MD/GENE5-0089.html.

    4. [S1] Gunston Hall.org, http://www.gunstonhall.org/library/masonweb/p6.htm.