Notes on Hampton Mansion
NPS Logo

Appendix B

August 22, 1949.


When Hampton was built, according to an article published in 1875, [1] ". . . . The country-people soon saw with amazement what was to them a palace rising in the wilderness. . . .They called it 'Ridgely's Folly'. . . .it had too many 'new-fangled notions' about it. Marble mantels, folding doors, sofas, mahogany sideboards, and chinaware, were almost unknown immediately after the Revolution. Yet Hampton must be adorned with all these.... Stoves in houses or in churches were the rarest of luxuries. . . .Prior to 1800 there were not six four-wheeled carriages in the whole city of Baltimore. And the captain would have carpets, and stoves and carriages; drove, indeed, with a coach-and-four when the fancy seized him."

This article is apparently unreliable in a number of respects and it is desirable to check all available evidence, structural and documentary, before proceeding with plans for restoration using stoves.

The use of iron stoves in early America is not generally realized. The following remarks might be made on the period before 1790 when Hampton was completed. Stoves were in common use in French Canada in the 17th century [2] and in wide use in the United States by the end of the 18th century. In the south it might be noted that they were to be found in the Governor's Palace in Williamsburg before 1781 [3] and seem to have been not uncommonly cast in Maryland furnaces in 1782 where they sold at 95 £ per ton, "neat weight." [4] Best of all, there is an advertisement in the Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser for January 15, 1783, as follows:

(from Nine to Two-Pounders)

BAR-IRON, pig iron, pots from 15 gallons to three quarts, kettles, from 45 to 15 gallons; Dutch ovens, tea-kettles, skillets, mortars and pestles, waggon-boxes, stoves, salt-pans, flat-irons, dripping-pans and bakers, are made, and now to be sold at the Northampton Iron-Works, and at Ridgely's Forges, about 10 miles from Baltimore Town.

Specie, State Certificates, passed agreeable to an act of Assembly of the 10th of May, 1781, Continental State, black or red Money, pork, corn, wheat, or tobacco, will be taken in payment, for any of the above articles; and credit will be given for any sum exceeding 200. For terms, apply to the subscriber, living near the above-mentioned Works.


N.B. Castings of any kind made on the shortest notice.

Baltimore County, Jan. 13, 1783.

(In the Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser of October 21, 1783, and January 2, 1784, Thomas Usher, Sr., and Joseph Donaldson advertise with many other items, "Iron Stoves," "Dutch ovens" and "Franklin stoves.") The status of stoves in this period is described by iron historian Dennis C. Kurjack, as follows:

"The actual use of close-iron-stoves (six and ten plate) and open-iron-stoves (Franklin fireplace, etc.) in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries was restricted largely to the rich. (Despite the impression created by advertisements of the period, the poor could rarely afford anything better than the crude open fireplace.) And as the rich not only could afford but were often willing to try out any new idea offered by inventors which promised improvements to existing types in the matter of fuel consumption, heat radiation, and ventilation." [5]


Hob grates of iron or brass were common in Boston by 1724, using coal brought across the Atlantic. "Franklin stoves" or "Pennsylvania fireplaces" were advertised in Boston in 1745. [6]

Whether or not coal was burned in Hampton Mansion is not certain. Coal was mined on the James River of Virginia from the middle of the 18th century [7] and shipped to many East Coast ports, including Baltimore. [8] It is, of course, hard to imagine coal being hauled out from the city to heat Hampton, but we read that coal was actually mined on the Ridgely estate and in 1801 advertised for sale in the city. [9] This venture, however, was not a success. [10] How long coal may have been mined at Hampton for domestic use is not known.

A derelict half of a large cast iron plate, evidently part of a stove or a fireback with "NORTHAMTON" [11] cast in decorative scroll was found in an outbuilding at Hampton and was brought to the mansion with the permission of Mr. John Ridgely. The base of the plate is burned out in the manner of the back plate in the Franklin stove now in the second floor bathroom. [12] I am not able to date the design.

According to Josephine H. Pierce, the oldest known Franklin stove is a C. 1750 model at the Mercer Museum, Doylestown, Pennsylvania. [13] The first models were meant to be set inside an open fireplace already built. A number of old Baltimore stoves were shown the writer by Mr. Wilbur H. Hunter, Jr., Director of the Municipal Museum of the City of Baltimore. A Franklin-type stove in the home of a friend of his on Tyson Street may be of local manufacture and as old as Hampton. A handsome stove c. 1795 with Adam decoration is owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. [14] English hob grates of the period are illustrated in Gloag and Bridgewater, A History of Cast Iron in Architecture. [15] Edwin Jackson, 159 E. 54th St., New York 22, N. Y., deals in this kind of item.


At the request of the deceased, no inventory was filed of the effects of Charles Ridgely, the builder (died 1790, about the time the house was completed), but there is a detailed inventory of the late Charles Carnan Ridgely, occupant of the mansion, made in 1829. Although there is listed only "1 small Stove" valued at $3.00, there were ten pairs of andirons, six fenders and two pair of dogs mentioned. Six ten-plate stoves valued at $43.00 are also mentioned, [16] but it is assumed that these were used for cooking in employees' quarters on the plantation or at the Furnace. This evidence is inconclusive. It seems to mean that the heating stoves were not then in use at the mansion. They may have burned out or have been discarded for other reasons in the forty intervening years.


Only two fireplaces at the mansion have been examined. At the present time the others have not been opened up for inspection. Examination made August 9, 1949, revealed the following:

The Ghost Room - Condition X prevailed at the time of acquisition. This included a large mid- or late-Victorian coal grate, which was removed. Condition X-1 was a plastered firechamber with a thin iron lintel 2'-10" above the hearth. The lintel and a row of brick soldiers proved to be a later addition and was removed.

Condition X-2 was a plastered firechamber with a crude stone jack arch, possibly original, making the opening 3'-2" above the hearth. This opening is so high that the fire must, in any case, have been elevated on a grate to prevent smoking.

The hearth consisted of red brick 6" plus square. These were removed for the reconstruction of the floor and have been saved for reinstallation.

Master Bedroom - Condition I: A black slate slab front with an opening 2'-10" square was in place August 9. One of the side pieces (as well as the hearth) had been broken and the balance was removed. The slate was very obviously a later addition over the old smoked surfaces.

Condition X-1 was a plaster-lined firechamber 3'—3-1/2" high at the opening which was spanned with another stone jack arch, plastered underneath like Condition X-2 in the Ghost Room.

The masonry of the left jamb of the firechamber is much disturbed. Possibly it was rebuilt in connection with the old hot-air furnace flue (1875 or earlier).


There are three next steps which can be pursued more or less concurrently.

1. Open and examine the other fireplaces, especially those on the second floor east which still have stoves.

2. Complete the examination of the Northampton Furnace account books in the Ridgely Papers, Maryland Historical Society. The Daybooks are presumably complete for the period 1783-1790. The sampling of a few weeks' entries read by me did not mention stoves but showed that Charles Ridgely, who was not full owner of the furnace, was charged with any items taken from the works.

3. Consult collectors and students of the subject and learn where there are suitable stoves still in existence which may be purchased or copied.


The Municipal Museum of the City of Baltimore is housed in a restored building of the early stoves in which modern heating units are concealed. Mr. John H. Scarff was the architect.

Should it be decided to use stoves at Hampton they might in the same way be a solution to getting rid of the modern exposed radiators.

Charles E. Peterson
Regional Architect


When I wrote the "Preliminary Report" of August 22, 1949, early American stoves was a new subject with me and I shared the general distrust of them as furnishings for restored 18th-century houses. But a few weeks later I had a chance to note many items in the Ridgely manuscripts about the castings of stoves at Northampton Furnace and their sale and distribution.

The earliest stove entry found was the purchase of "1 Stove Pipe" entered in a Northampton Furnace ledger for November 18, 1783. Such an item would have been made of thin sheet iron, more than likely of sheets rolled abroad. But in the years following there is no doubt that stoves were manufactured at Hampton in quantity, along with firebacks, grates, Dutch ovens, kettles, oven stoppers and even iron mantelpieces.

Here are some relevant items:

Account Book LI, Day Book

Jan. 17Tempeste Tucker for 1...10 plate Stove£ 7...15...9
Jan. 23Cash received for a Small inside Stove plate----
March 31Thomas Rossiter receiv'd of him in p.t for stoves3...5...
Aug. 29Henry Fletcher for 2 days work sawing Timber for the Moulding house----
March 24Genl. charges for 1 10 plate stove given to the Meathodice meet.g House at Anp.s pr Cap.t 6...16 lb... ----

Acct. Book LVII

Nov. 25Frederick Moss for making and putting Doors & pipes to a 10 plate Stove...----
Dec. 3Castings for 1 Ten plate Stove----
Dec. 11John Ellicott for 1 Franklin Stove w.t 4--64...10...0
Dec. 161 10 plate Stove----
Dec. 171 fire or Chimney Back----
Dec. 231-10 plate
l Chimney Back
Dec. 274-10 plate Stoves----
Dec. 30a Franklin Stove----
Dec. 30General Charges D.r to Charles Jessop for mak.g Stove patterns &c.6...
Dec. 30Capt. Chas. Ridgely to Castings for 2 p.r large Andirons & 1 Oven Stopper w.t 1-21----
Jan. 8hauling a grate to Balt.o----
March 31Profit & Loss D.r
To John Norwood for 1 Tenplate Stove charg'd to him 16th Decem.r 1788 which was for the Use of the Methodist Congregation at the Stone Meeting House & which Cap.t Ridgely with the Consent of the greatest part of the Company agreed to make them a present of...

Ridgely Account Book
(Jan. 1, 1810 - Dec. 31, 1815)

Dec. 271 large 10 plate Stove in Casting house5 cwt...
Dec. 31By Error in entring oval Stoves...----
March 12So much paid Elisha Bull making patterns100.00
July 23To Jn.o Calhoun for moulding 11 large 10 plate Stoves @ $2...----

Some years later the writer was confronted with the problem of the original heating of the 18th-century public buildings on Independence Square, Philadelphia. The architects' problem in planning masonry work for the forthcoming restorations was to learn what provisions were needed in the chimneys.

Samuel Y. Edgerton, then a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, spent two summers under my direction collecting records of the design, manufacture, distribution and use of stoves in the Philadelphia area during the 1790's. The quantity of source material assembled was so great that it has defied anyone since to write up the subject. The study did serve to tell the museum planners what antique stoves to buy or to have copied--and it told the architects what chimney features were needed.

Apparently the discovery of oxygen by Joseph Priestly in 1774 had stimulated the philosophers of Philadelphia to investigate the theory of combustion and the design of heating devices. Pennsylvania, through its large rural German population, already had a strong tradition of making and using iron stoves. The discovery that some of the principal rooms of the State House, Congress Hall and Old City Hall, the most imposing public building group in 18th-century America, were heated with 10-plate or cooking stoves was quite astonishing!

Mrs. Peirce's work was subsequently published as Josephine H. Peirce, Fire on the Hearth, the Pond Ekberg Co., Springfield, Massachusetts, 1951. The book has since gone out of print and that lady is now working on another one.

<<< Previous <<< Contents>>> Next >>>

Last Updated: 07-Jul-2008