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Hampton National Historic Site


Hampton Hall, one of the country's largest and most ornate Georgian mansions, represents the social and economic history of one family for nearly two centuries. The national historic site includes the Ridgely family home, slave quarters, and 24 other buildings on a 63-acre estate.

Hampton National Park Service
© National Park Service
Luxury items found on the Hampton National Historic Site grounds represent the
changing styles of America's wealthy from the 1760s to the late 1880s.

Colonel Charles Ridgely bought the original 1,500-acre tract of land, called Northhampton, in 1745. Between 1783 and 1790, his youngest son, Captain Charles Ridgely, built Hampton Hall, the 33-room showpiece of the estate. The mansion was built on a grand scale, from the massive cupola on top to the gargantuan Great Hall at the center of the house.

The mansion was built of locally quarried stone and covered with stucco, an unusual choice for the time. Its design is classic Georgian, in which symmetry is the ideal.

The furniture, paintings, silver, glassware, and decorative objects that fill the house represent the changing tastes and styles of America's wealthy from the 1760s to the late 1880s. The parlor reflects the early period, from 1790 to 1829. The 1830s-style drawing room includes an original set of Baltimore painted furniture, large gilt mirrors, a Chinese gaming table, and a family portrait painted by Rembrandt Peale in 1797. The music room is decorated in the later Victorian style, with a Steinway piano made of rosewood and a Rococo Revival set of chairs, love seat, couch, and table.

The grounds of the estate are every bit as elegant as the home. A walking tour leads visitors through the landscaped grounds and formal gardens that evolved during the family's occupancy. Highlights of the tour include a reconstructed orangery from about 1825, an herb garden, natural English parks, and terraced flower gardens called parterres. At one time the gardens boasted 4,000 roses. The estate also has more than 200 different kinds of trees, including 200-year-old catalpa trees, a purple European beech, and an imported cedar of Lebanon.

In marked contrast to the mansion and gardens are the slave quarters. Until 1864, slaves did most of the hard labor on the estate; after the slaves were freed, the farm struggled financially.

The Ridgely family kept the house until 1948, when it was acquired by the National Park Service to be preserved for its historical and architectural significance.

Georgian Style

The architectural style known as Georgian combines balance and symmetry with ornate details. Hampton Hall is a classic example of a five-part Georgian home. The main part of the house, called the block, is flanked by two wings. Two enclosed passages, or hyphens, connect the wings to the central structure.

Hampton National Historic Site Information

Address: 535 Hampton Lane
Towson, MD 21286
Telephone: 410/823-1309
Hours of Operation: (Visitor Center) Daily, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.; (Visitor Center) Daily, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day
Admission: Free

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Eric Peterson is a Denver-based freelance writer who has contributed to numerous guidebooks about the Western United States.