A. Purpose of Report
This study attempts, within the limited time available to the writer:
(1) To assemble and arrange into some kind of order the Hampton data collected by the writer twenty-plus years ago.
(2) To describe the restoration measures taken in 1949--soon after the National Park Service assumed responsibility for Hampton.
(3) To point out further work needed. Most of this report could thus be termed a research salvage project. It is not intended for publication, though it could be rewritten for that purpose as a sequel to John H. Scarff's valuable article of June 1948 in the Maryland Historical Magazine--still popularly sold in reprint form.
The collection of information has not been easy. Since 1950 the people directly concerned with the earliest phases of Hampton's redevelopment have scattered and some key persons are deceased. Several changes of Federal jurisdiction have come to pass; the official records have been somewhat dispersed and are becoming more so.
The writer's first restoration project was on the Moore House near Yorktown, Virginia, in 1931. Four years later he compiled a history of the operation which was of great use in explaining the building to visitors. If I may quote myself:
One of the extraordinary developments which stemmed from arranging the Federal acquisition of Hampton by the generosity of the Avalon Foundation was the organization of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, now a national agency with a large membership and a widespread influence. Much to my surprise I have recently found that people today know little of that story.
We are fortunate that one of the participants of that campaign is with us and has been able to set down from memory--and from the record--how it all happened. I am proud to present the account by Ronald F. Lee (Appendix C) in the form of a letter dated April 14, 1970. I have urged Mr. Lee to expand his study into an article to be published in letterpress.
My first encounter with Hampton came in the summer of 1948 while serving as Regional Architect of the National Park Service at the Region One Headquarters in Richmond, Virginia. Occasional short visits were made that year and plans begun towards upgrading the house for opening to the public in line with the hopes of the Ridgely family, the Avalon Foundation and the Society for the Preservation of Maryland Antiquities. The first stabilization measure (propping up the Dining Room floor) had taken place early that year by Park Service engineers.
In September 1949 enroute to a new assignment in Philadelphia, the writer was directed to stopoff in Baltimore and expedite work at the Mansion. Two months were spent in residence. But the business of building up a day-labor-work force of twenty-three men, attempting to do a comprehensive search of the Ridgely manuscripts and get acquainted with the Baltimore historical community (all at the same time) proved too much. From overwork he landed in the Union Memorial Hospital for five weeks and after a period of convalescence, proceeded on to a resident assignment in Philadelphia. The Hampton projects were then picked up and carried (as far as funds would allow) under the direction of the Washington professional staff of the National Park Service, principally Chief Architect Dick Sutton. Walter T. Berrett (afterwards Superintendent at Fort McHenry) served as clerk-of-the-works in residence.
My deep involvement with the house developed with the close--if brief--acquaintanceship on the job. The individuality of the main fabric and its dependencies grows on one, as does the interest of its human story. The possibility of learning more from the huge and still growing collection of Ridgely Papers is even yet intriguing. But only in the summer of 1959, when the writer dispatched a Historic American Buildings Survey team for the making of record drawings, did he have a chance to work on Hampton again.
The opportunity of putting together this report, brief as it is, is much appreciated. If it serves to encourage studies in greater depth, the writer will be happy.
The writer first saw the Ridgely Papers at the Maryland Historical Society in 1948 in the shape of about 66 bound volumes and an estimated couple of bushels of loose papers of all sizes. Their bulk, lack of identification, and arrangement made it practically impossible for any two different persons to readily locate the same item of even for a researcher to refind papers he had previously used.
In the last few years progress has been made in ordering this rich and important record group. A letterpress catalog compiled by Avril J. M. Pedley, The Manuscript Collections of the Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore, 1968, lists the following:
This writer has not had a chance to see the manuscripts since they were rearranged but hopes that others will benefit by the Society's enterprise, a difficult and costly one.
Through the years numbers of articles have been written about Hampton. These are usually rich in glamour and nostalgia but at times questionable as to facts.
Some of the more important titles are:
Last of all, the late John H. Scarff, FAIA, had published an article "Hampton, Baltimore County Maryland" in the Maryland Historical Magazine (June 1948). This was reprinted under separate cover and widely distributed. It is a valuable and solid work but much new historical source material has been discovered since that time and a great deal happened to the place physically. Mr. Scarff does not seem to have investigated the massive collection of Ridgely Papers in the Maryland Historical Society, nor did he acknowledge any of the competent works of Dr. William B. Hoyt, Jr., a member of the Ridgely family, published previously (and listed above).
In 1948 Mrs. Charles Buckner Ray, a volunteer researcher, then of 2028 Guilford Avenue, Baltimore, was encouraged to read extensively in the Ridgely Papers where she soon discovered the richness of that large body of manuscript material. Her informal reports were rather undisciplined and confusing but she found many bits of great interest and had flashes of intuition about their importance. When her privately-supplied funds finally ran out, that project was terminated. No connected or systematic essay ever issued from it.
Among the other kind persons who contributed occasional research in that period were Mrs. Charlotte Vincent Verplanck of Lutherville and Edith Rossiter Bevan of Ruxton, whose article "Gardens and Gardening in Early Maryland" appeared in the Maryland Historical Magazine, Vol. XLV, No. 4 (December 1950), pp. 243-270. We had a pleasant time trading our discoveries.
Anne C. Edmonds, The Land Holdings of the Ridgelys of Hampton, 1726-1843, a typescript M. A. dissertation for Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, 1959, is a splendid contribution towards assembling a picture of the Ridgely empire at high tide.
The typescript report Hampton and Its Masters by Park Service Historian Lionel J. Bienvenu (Fort McHenry, March 1963) falls short of its announced "intent of supplying as full information as possible," but it does contribute some items to the chronology of the house construction, as did Mrs. Ray's work. (Note: The detailed carpenters' bills transcribed in extenso, pp. 52-67, had already been published by Hoyt in 1938 though perhaps Mr. Bienvenu did not know it.)
The original drawings from which the Mansion was built must have been lost many years ago; no historian ever claimed to have seen them.
The oldest set of floor plans we now have is a set of four ink drawings made by John Laing, Civil Engineer and Architect dated July 1875. They are reproduced in Part VII.
One floor plan, one elevation and some interior details of the Mansion were published in Great Georgian Houses of America (New York, 1933-1937) as drawn for the Architects' Emergency Committee of New York City.
The next drawings were made a quarter of a century later. The old outbuildings of the plantation, especially those beyond the boundaries of the National Historic Site, had become somewhat neglected and threatened to disappear one by one. These were partly recorded in the summer of 1959 under the writer's general direction as Supervising Architect, Eastern Office of Design and Construction, National Park Service, Philadelphia.
A Historic American Buildings Survey team, organized for the purpose, made forty-one sheets of measured drawings which included a floor plan of the Mansion and of many of the outbuildings. Professor F. Blair Reeves of the University of Florida was in charge of the team which consisted of Herbert L. Banks, University of Florida, Charles C. Boldrick, University of Notre Dame, Orville W. Carroll, University of Oregon, Richard C. Mehring, University of Virginia, and Trevor Nelson, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. These records, at the moment, are in the Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation, National Park Service, Washington. They will be filed with the great national collections of the Historic American Buildings Survey in the Library of Congress, where they will be available to all. (See Illustration No. 4, 33 Sheets.)
The drawings listed by Architectural Historian Beinke April 13, 1970, are as follows (structure and number of sheets of drawings):
A record was made by National Park Service Architect Norman Souder in December 1963 of the conjectural floor plan of Stable No. 1 at the time the building was fitted for modern displays.
The Mansion and its dependencies have never been adequately recorded photographically, and there appears to be no central or comprehensive file for those negatives and prints that have been made. The following notes may be helpful in starting one:
(1) The Historic American Buildings Survey Catalog of 1941 lists 24 photographs made in 1936 and 1937.
(2) A set seems to have been made by National Park Service Photographer Abbie Rowe of Washington in 1948 when the Ridgelys still lived in the house.
(3) The writer has in his temporary possession a number of prints from 8" by 10" negatives by Sussman-Ochs, 2102 Maryland Avenue, Baltimore, 18 exposed during the restoration work of 1949.
(4) Later ones seem to have been made by another government photographer. One print I have (a view in the Parlor as furnished and exhibited) is labeled:
NPS Neg. No. WASO.C.450
(5) There are a limited number of old photographs in various hands which have been copied and recopied through the years. A bill in the Ridgely Papers dated October 15, 1872, from Chase & Bachrach for $67.00 for "view of house" may relate to some of them. This may refer to an ancestor of the well-known Boston photographers.
(6) A set of HABS photographs of various outbuildings was made in 1959 by Photographer Miyamoto. A selection of prints is enclosed in this report.
This report was prepared under a contract with the Northeast Region of the National Park Service. The encouragement and help of Ronald F. Lee, George A. Palmer and Murray Nelligan of that office must be warmly acknowledged. Of my architectural colleagues, Henry A. Judd and Norman M. Souder must be thanked.
The superintendents of Fort McHenry (to which the governmental cognizance of Hampton was early assigned) have been most helpful. They were the late James W. Rader, Walter Berrett, George C. Mackenzie and Albert J. Benjamin.
The late John Ridgely of Hampton and Mrs. Ridgely consistently helped to make early visits to Hampton worthwhile.
The ladies of the Society for the Preservation of Maryland Antiquities have aided my studies in many ways over twenty-two years and always made a stop at the old Mansion a genuine pleasure. Let us wish them well in their devoted work of furnishing the Mansion and of keeping it attractive and interesting to the visiting public.
Charles E. Peterson
Last Updated: 07-Jul-2008