Entertaining and Dining
Hospitality was always central to life at Hampton. Guests were entertained with great style and graciousness. Governor Charles Carnan Ridgely, was said to "keep the best table in America." His parties could be quite large, as his friend Henry Thompson recorded in his diary in 1812, "Fifty one People sat down to Dinner in the Hall and had plenty of room." More...
By the twentieth century, though family fortunes had declined, there were still opulent special events held at Hampton. In 1916, Captain John and Helen Ridgely hosted a large garden party for their friends, the Theodore Roosevelts. One final large party during the Ridgely era was the debutant party in 1943 for Margie Whitham, hosted by her mother’s first cousin John Ridgely, Jr., the last private owner of Hampton.
The Dining Room at Hampton is set for a Christmas dinner party for ten, c. 1820. The dining table is extended and set for dinner, with appropriate and seasonal faux foods. During this period, dinner was usually held in the mid-afternoon, and lasted several hours. The table was laid with all the plates and service dishes in an orderly, symmetrical pattern.
This table display is based on diagrams shown in housekeeping guides and cookbooks of the period. The soup and fish dishes (always at the head and foot) were important parts of the first course. After they were served, those dishes were taken away and replaced with “removes,” in this case the ham and galantine resting on the Empire secretary. The central dish, here, a roasted wild turkey, has been elevated on a silver “dish cross.” This first course shows a total of 13 individual dishes. More...
The sideboard was a focal point of the early 19th century dining room. It featured the family’s silver and glassware and desserts. In The House Servant’s Directory (1827), Robert Roberts states: “In setting out your sideboard, you must study neatness, convenience and taste; as you must think that ladies and gentlemen that have splendid and costly articles, wish to have them seen and set out to best advantage…The grapes which are to go on with dessert, etc. with all the spare glasses that are for dinner, must go on the sideboard…Your glasses should form a crescent, or half circle, as this looks most sublime.”
In addition to the fruit and nuts in the epergne, with grapes and two elaborate cakes on the sideboard, the other desserts are displayed on the side table, with the extra dessert plates and eating utensils. At the front, a silver salver holds small fluted glasses of “syllabub,” a frothy concoction of milk, wine, and fruit juice that was popular in the 18th and early 19th centuries. After the dessert course, the ladies retired to the Drawing Room for tea, coffee, and conversation, while the gentlemen remained at the dinner table to enjoy their Madeira, port, and brandy.