Hampton Mansion 1790
If I had to choose the top 10 Historic House museums in America Hampton Mansion would be on my list. It's not hard to see why after you view the photo's. This house has a lot going for it.
Hampton Mansion is one of those few American homes that have a true 200 year lived in look with a fine collection of family antiques. This is as close as you get to American aristocracy! Hampton Mansion built in 1790 is a vast American Georgian estate including a five part Palladian plan Georgian style manor house, antique gardens, grounds, and the original stone slave quarters. The 10,000 acres estate was owned by the Ridgely family for seven generations, from 1745 to 1948. The Hampton Mansion was the largest private home in America when it was completed in 1790 and today is considered to be one of the finest examples of Georgian architecture in the U.S. together with the estate's slave quarters and other preserved structures, provide insight into the life of late 18th-century and early 19th-century landowning aristocracy. Hampton was the first site selected as a National Historical Site for its architectural significance by the U.S. National Park Service.The grounds were widely admired in the 19th century for their elaborate parterres or formal gardens, which have been restored to resemble their appearance during the 1820s. Several trees are more than 200 years old.
In 1783, Capt. Ridgely began construction of the main house, Hampton Mansion. He said its concept was inspired by Castle Howard in England, owned by relatives of his mother. When it was completed in 1790, the Hampton Mansion was the largest private home in the United States. When Capt. Ridgely died that same year, his nephew, Charles Carnan Ridgely (1760–1829), became the second master of Hampton.He had 10,590 feet (3,228 m) of irrigation pipes laid in 1799 from a nearby spring to provide water to the Mansion and the surrounding gardens, which he was extensively developing. Prominent artisans of the time were hired to design geometric formal gardens, which were planted on the Mansion's grounds between 1799 and 1801. An avid horseman, Charles Carnan also began raising Thoroughbred horses at Hampton, where he had a racetrack installed. A 1799 advertisement promoted the stud services of his racehorse, Grey Medley. Another of Ridgely's racehorses, Post Boy, won the Washington City Jockey Club cup.
Under Charles Carnan Ridgely, Hampton reached its peak of 25,000 acres (10,117 ha) in the 1820s. The mansion overlooked a grand estate of orchards, ironworks, coal mining, marble quarries, mills, and mercantile interests. The vast farm produced corn, beef cattle, dairy products, hogs, and horses. More than 300 slaves worked the fields and served the household, making Hampton one of Maryland's largest slaveholding estates. Six parterres were designed on three terraced levels facing the mansion, planted with roses, peonies, and seasonal flowers. In 1820, an orangery was built on the grounds.
Charles Carnan Ridgely frequently entertained prominent guests in the Mansion's 51 ft. x 21 ft. (16 m by 6.4 m) Great Hall the largest room in a house at the time the home was built, such as Charles Carroll of Carrollton, who was a signer of the Declaration of Independence for Maryland, and Revolutionary War general, the Marquis de Lafayette. Charles Carnan served as governor of Maryland between 1816–19. When Governor Ridgely died in 1829, he freed Hampton's slaves in his will. The Hampton estate was split among various heirs, with his son, John Carnan Ridgely (1790–1867), inheriting the mansion and 4,500 acres. The ironworks closed and thereafter the Ridgelys' income was primarily derived from farming, investments, and their stone quarries. John Carnan added plumbing, heating, and gas lighting to the mansion.
Eliza Ridgely (1803–67), his wife and the subject of Thomas Sully's famous portrait, Lady with a Harp, purchased many artworks and furnishings for the mansion. She was a noted horticulturist and had successively larger and more elaborate gardens cultivated on the grounds, with a large variety of flowers and shrubs grown in the estate's greenhouses and tended by some of the 60 slaves purchased by John Carnan Ridgely. By the mid-19th century, the Hampton estate had one of the most extensive collections of citrus trees in the U.S., along with various exotic trees and plants gathered by Eliza Ridgely during her frequent travels to Europe and the Orient. In the warm months, the potted citrus plants were brought outside and arranged around the terraced gardens, then taken into the heated orangery during the winter. She had one section of the garden planted with colorful red, yellow, pink, and maroon coleus from Asia. In 1859, Hampton's fame for lavish style was such that the author of a book on landscaping wrote, "It has been truly said of Hampton that it expresses more grandeur than any other place in America".
Successive generations of the Ridgely family at Hampton bought quantities of the finest furniture to fill the large Mansion. Surviving furnishings are extensive and cover all periods of occupancy of the house, from the Revolution to the early 20th century.
Most of the furniture was made in Baltimore, a city famous for the high quality and sophistication of its cabinetmaking. Others were made in other American cities and in England. There is also a small but significant group of Chinese exportware, pieces made in China for the export trade in the 19th century. These feature surfaces embellished with intricate lacquer work and gilding.
The furniture on view here is arranged by style and date, beginning with a few rare examples in the Chippendale style from the late 18th century. The more numerous pieces in the Federal (or Early Neoclassical) style are grouped to show objects suitable for a Parlor and a Bedchamber. The Late Neoclassical or Empire style examples are grouped as Dining Room and Drawing Room furnishings. Both the Federal and Empire styles show the inspiration of designs from classical antiquity, as filtered through England and France. Hampton's collection has Late Neoclassical pieces, many acquired by Charles Carnan Ridgely around the time of a major renovation of the Dining Room in the eighteen teens.
The Mansion includes Neoclassical style furnishings with painted surfaces. Painted or "fancy" furniture was in vogue in the U.S. for four decades in the early 19th century. Hampton's collection has some of the finest painted furniture surviving in America, especially the documented work of John Finlay. This Baltimore craftsman, renowned for making furniture for the White House in 1809, was patronized by two generations of Ridgelys.
As furnished now, the Music Room reflects the taste of the high Victorian era, 1870-1890. Margaretta Howard Ridgely (1824-1904), widow of Hampton's fourth master Charles Ridgely (1830-1872), was then mistress of the household.
The southwest parlor at Hampton has been known as the Music Room since at least the 1840s, though it served other purposes including that of the principal library in the house.
Musical instruments, including the piano and the harp, were always present and often used to entertain guests. The harp purchased for Eliza Ridgely (1803-1867), Hampton's third mistress, from Erard of London in 1817 still stands in the Music Room today.
Historic photographs, some dating as early as the mid-1880s, show the Music Room filled with furnishings from previous periods and the walls were densely hung with paintings.
Sofa Rococo Revival style, 1840-1860 BaltimoreThis unusual, three-part sofa was made in Baltimore around 1850, a custom order for the Ridgelys. Historic photos in Hampton’s collection document its use in the Music Room from the 1880s through the 1940s. It was likely in the room from the time of its purchase. Its large size and seating capacity would have been useful when numerous guests were present for musical evenings at Hampton. The design source may be plate 27 in George Hepplewhite’s The Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer's Guide (1788, 1794) showing a three-part sofa of similar overall form but quite different in ornamentation. The Hampton sofa is fully carved with the naturalistic and scrolled ornamentation typical of the mid-19th century Rococo Revival.
Lady's Slipper Chair Rococo Revival style, 1858 Baltimore; made by Robert Renwick (fl. 1835-1876)
This small chair with its superb carved ornamentation is attributed to the shop of Baltimore’s leading cabinetmaker of the third quarter of the 19th century on the basis of a surviving bill in the Ridgely archives. In January 1858, Eliza Ridgely was billed by Robert Renwick for “…one Lady’s Chair in Fancy Plush…30.00.” The naturalistic carving featuring roses, morning glories, and other flowers reflects Eliza’s love of horticulture. The chair can be seen in historic photos of the Music Room at Hampton in the late 19th century, it’s location today.
Couch Late Neoclassical (Empire) style, 1825-1840 BaltimoreProbably purchased by Eliza Ridgely in the early 1830s, by the late 19th century this elegant couch graced the Music Room at Hampton. The shape of this type of sofa is derived from that of an ancient Roman triclinium or banqueting couch, as reinterpreted by English designers such a Thomas Hope and Thomas Sheraton in the early 19th century. The choice of costly rosewood rather than mahogany is unusual, for this South American hardwood did not come into frequent use in American furniture until mid-century. This couch was likely made in Baltimore by a leading but unknown cabinetmaker.
Portrait over mantel Charles Carnan Ridgely c. 1950 (after 1820 original) By C. G. Stapko (after Thomas Sully)Charles Carnan Ridgely (1760-1829), son of John and Achsah Ridgely Carnan, sister of Captain Charles Ridgely (1733-1790), was educated and trained in business by his uncle. When Capt. Ridgely died childless in 1790, Charles Ridgely Carnan inherited the Hampton estate, iron furnaces, and additional property, on the condition he change his surname to Ridgely. Charles Carnan Ridgely eventually owned more than 25,000 acres of land in northern Maryland and over 300 slaves. In addition to his vast agricultural, industrial, and commercial interests, he served as a representative from Baltimore County in the Maryland legislature from 1790-1795, as a state senator from 1796-1800, and as a three-term governor of Maryland, ending in 1819. Known throughout his life as General Ridgely, Charles Carnan Ridgely’s military record culminated with his appointment as a brigadier general in the state militia in 1796. His original 1820 portrait by Thomas Sully was donated by John Ridgely, Jr. to National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. in 1945.
Pier Mirror and Window Cornices (two of three) Rococo Revival style, 1851 Made by Samson Cariss (fl. 1842-1863)
This extraordinarily large and ornate mirror frame with matching window cornices is perhaps the most dramatic use of the Ridgely family’s stag’s head crest at Hampton. The frame was designed and custom-made by Samson Cariss, the preeminent manufacturer of looking glasses in mid-19th century Baltimore. It was made for the Music Room at Hampton, where it hangs today. A sketch by Cariss with a written proposal which he sent to Eliza Ridgely in May of 1851 survives, as does the bill dated June 26, 1851. A workman who installed the mirror earlier that month also signed and dated the back of the frame, making this the single most thoroughly documented piece in Hampton’s collection. Cariss charged Mrs. Ridgely only $52.00 for the carved and gilded “richly ornamented” frame made in his shop in Baltimore, but the huge mirror plate imported from France cost $235.00 (about $10,000 in today’s money).
Girandole glass (one of a pair) Neoclassical style; 1810-1830 England or United States
Girandole glasses were convex mirrors with sconce arms that helped to increase the light level in a room. Although surmounted by patriotic American eagles, the mirrors may have been made in England for export to this country. The pair are the “two round mirrors” listed in the Music Room in John Ridgely’s estate inventory in 1867.
Candelabrum (one of a pair) Neoclassical style; 1832 Paris FranceThis is probably one of the pair of candelabras that Eliza Ridgely purchased for 365 francs in Paris in October 1834 shortly before she and her family returned home. The figures are representations of Cupid and Psyche.
Old Master painting
Gasolier Rococo Revival style; 1840-1860 France/ChinaThis extraordinary fixture is a “gasolier,” originally made to use piped coal gas rather than candles. Its ornate design features an imported Chinese vase and gilt bronze arms with cast rams’ heads at the base. Perhaps purchased by the Ridgelys during their trips to France in 1846-1848 or 1852, it has hung in Hampton’s Music Room since then.
Curtain Tieback 1845 Baltimore; made by Cariss & SchultzThe leading manufacturers of looking glasses and other fancy goods in Baltimore, Cariss & Schultz made the first of several orders of the Ridgely's stag’s head family crest “curtain bands” for Hampton in the summer of 1845. The cast bronze tiebacks were gilt and lacquered. They were originally ordered by Eliza Ridgely (1803-1867) for use in the Drawing Room and Music Room.
This second floor room interprets the daily life of the children of Hampton in the mid-19th century when John Ridgely (1790-1867) and his wife Eliza Eichelberger Ridgely (1803-1867) were master and mistress of Hampton.
Their children Eliza, called "Didy" (1828-1894), and Charles (1830-1872) had their bedrooms on this floor. Both children frequently brought their school friends home to spend the weekends with them in the country, where they enjoyed a wide range of both indoor and outdoor activities.
Objects in the room reflect both the lighter side of childhood (dolls and toys) and the more serious side (school books, an invalid feeder). There are also references to even more special events, such as books and souvenirs from the trips to Europe that Ridgely family children enjoyed in this period.
The Master Bedchamber represents the early occupancy of the second master and mistress, Governor Charles Carnan Ridgley (1760-1829) and Priscilla Hill Dorsey Ridgely (1762-1814).
This southwest room on the second floor was historically used as the principal bedchamber at Hampton. Priscilla, second mistress of Hampton, bore at least 14 children between 1783 and 1803. During a woman's "lying-in" after childbirth, friends and neighbors visited, thus the elaborate nature of the room's decoration and furnishings.
Bed and window curtains were among the most important and valuable objects in the house. The hangings exhibited in winter reflect Priscilla's purchases of furnishing chintz in that period. In summer, bed and window curtains of sheer white muslin with tambour embroidery in blue are based on an original Hampton bed valance in the collection of the Maryland Historical Society.
View from 18th century Cupola.
View from 18th century Cupola.