Hello all, and welcome back! This post will be about another lovely “Baltimore Area Park” located north of Fort McHenry – Hampton National Historic Site.
Hampton National Historic Site is known predominately because of the mansion and surrounding gardens, though there is so much more to see than just these two places. The estate was owned by the Ridgely family, from 1745-1948. Built in 1783 by Charles Ridgely, the Hampton Mansion is a beautiful example of late-Georgian architecture. The Hampton Mansion was the largest private home in the United States after it was completed in 1790. One of my favorite rooms in the Mansion is the dining room. This room represents the mansion between 1810-1829 and exemplifies the elegance and wealth that the Ridgely’s possessed. The blue paint was only afforded by the wealthy as it had to be sent in from overseas!
Eliza Ridgely, who lived in the house from 1803-1867, was a major influence in the creation of the elaborate gardens that are behind the mansion. She planted exotic trees, some of which stand today in the south lawn! Eliza kept excellent notes on financial matters and spent considerable time constructing and caring for the gardens. One of the most famous pieces of artwork that showcases the beauty of Eliza is the painting Lady with a Harp by Thomas Sully. Eliza, only fifteen at the time, is standing next to a pedal harp that she played in the mansion. This painting was kept in the mansion until 1945, when it was sold to the National Gallery of Art.
The Ridgelys employed and owned many types of workers over the years that they lived on the land and in the mansion. They bought over 300 indentured servants, employed free workers, British Prisoners of War, and enslaved African Americans. For over 100 years slavery was part of the Hampton life. The picture to the left shows the slave quarters today, which are located across the street from the Mansion. Unlike agricultural plantations of the Deep South, the Ridgelys were involved in industry. Many of the jobs that the employed and owned workers did included cobblers, woodcutters, millers, blacksmiths, gardeners, cooks, servers, cleaners, and childcare providers. Slaves had access to medical care, but many times they sought medical care because of the poor treatment they suffered at the hands of their masters. This contradiction is not the only or the first, and is evident when reading the history of slavery throughout the United States.
On June 22, 1948, Hampton was designated a National Historic Site – the first to be selected because of its historical significance and architecture. In 1979 it was acquired by the National Park Service as Hampton National Historic Site. Under the NPS, the Mansion is open Thursday – Sunday for tours and Monday – Wednesday for self guided tours of the grounds. Come visit and learn more about this amazing site!