• Horse and Carriage in front of Hampton NHS

    Hampton

    National Historic Site Maryland

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  • New Tour Hours

    Beginning on Thursday, March 13, 2014, Hampton's mansion and farm buildings will be open for tours from 10 am - 4 pm, Thursday - Sunday.

  • Vistior Contact Station Update-Construction Advisory

    Phase III will continue as designed and this is the longest phase of the project. The Entrance Road and Parking Area will be defined. PARKING IS VERY LIMITED AND BUSES ARE PROHIBITED FROM THE MANSION'S PARKING LOT AND PARKING ANYWHERE ON THE SITE. More »

A Palace in the Wilderness

The dining room was designed as a magnificent showplace for entertaining

In 1875 a journalist chronicled the mansion's beginnings: "The country-people soon saw with amazement what was to them a palace rising in the wilderness…They called it 'Ridgely's Folly.'" Built between 1783 and 1790, Captain Charles Ridgely's dwelling rose with the new nation, yet was modeled after the aristocratic homes of another place and time. Castle Howard in Yorkshire, England, with its large octagonal cupola, may have inspired Ridgely's vision of his country residence; the Captain claimed kinship with the owners of that English estate through his mother's family.

Hampton did not have a formal architect; the master carpenter, Jehu Howell, is credited with much of the design. Local craftsmen, slaves, and indentured servants provided the labor. Hampton Mansion reflects classic Georgian symmetry: a large three-story structure connected to smaller wings on either side by hallways, or hyphens. The exterior is constructed of stone quarried on Ridgely property, stuccoed over and scored to resemble blocks of limestone. The pinkish color comes from iron oxide in the stuccoing compound.

In keeping with its role as a symbol of wealth and power, the mansion had large and lavish rooms where the Ridgelys indulged their taste--and the national obsession--for the styles of ancient Greece and Rome. The set of Baltimore-made painted furniture in the drawing room, purchased in 1832 by John and Eliza Ridgely, reflects this classical influence, as do many other chairs, tables, sofas, and decorative items. Later owners ushered in the Victorian mode, the Music Room displays furnishings accumulated by several generations of Ridgelys.

 
The gardens and mansion were designed together to make a seamless whole
The 19th century brought the exterior to its fullest glory. Italiannate gardens set on terraced earthworks were in place by 1802 on the south side of the mansion, while on the north side lay an English-style landscaped park. In the 1830s and 1840s, John and Eliza Ridgely carefully enhanced the "natural" landscape with exotic trees, including the cedar of Lebanon on the south lawn reported to have made its way from the Middle East in a shoebox. In 1839, horticulturist Henry Winthrop Sargent mused that Hampton's "venerable appearance" and "foreign air…quite disturb one's ideas of republican America."
 

Did You Know?

Milk Cows

The dairy business at Hampton once produced over 1,000 pounds of butter every year. The milk that the Ridgelys produced was mostly mixed into the slops for the pigs instead of being sold.