The Hermitage Museum and Gardens consists of an early 20th century historic house museum with a world-wide art collection and contemporary exhibition galleries, surrounded by twelve acres of formal gardens and natural woodlands; educational wetlands; a Visual Arts Studio; and a Studio Artists Program. The house was built by William and Florence Sloane, wealthy New Yorkers who came to Hampton Roads in 1895. Named “Hermitage,” the house was constructed in 1908 as a five-room summer home but soon became the Sloanes’ principal residence. Under Florence Sloane’s active direction, the Arts and Crafts style house was reoriented and expanded to its final forty-two rooms by 1936.
The Sloanes established the Hermitage Foundation, a non-stock, non-profit corporation, in 1937, as a museum to encourage development of Arts and Crafts and to promote the arts within the community. Ultimately, they contributed the house and its contents, the Hermitage grounds, and all outbuildings on the property to the Foundation. The Hermitage house museum opened to the public permanently in 1942, following a short closing after the death of her husband in 1940. Florence Sloane remained in residence at the Hermitage until her death in 1953.