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Location: Towson, MD
Date Built: 1783-1790
With a trip to Baltimore, it is quite difficult not to drive on the Baltimore beltway. Everyone knows the difficulty of maneuvering through this traffic packed highway. So it would seem impossible to have a historical mansion only miles from the beltway. Well directly off the beltway only one mile from Towson is one of the best examples of Georgian architecture in the country, the Hampton Mansion.
Hampton Mansion which is not as well known as other historical sites is maintained by the National Park Service. Part of its obscurity is due to the Ridgely family who resided in the mansion for seven generations. The Ridgely family is not well known, although Charles Carnan Ridgely served as the governor of Maryland between 1816-19. He did entertain Charles Carrol, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and General Lafayette in the Great Hall of the mansion.
During the Revolutionary War, the ironworks produced cannons and implements for the Continental Army.
The Great Hall
After the war, Charles Ridgely Jr. began construction on the mansion in 1783 which was inspired by Castle Howard in England. By this time, the Ridgely’s maintained 24,000 acres. Charles Ridgely Jr. died in 1790 when construction was completed. Charles’s nephew, Charles Carnan Ridgely inherited 12,000 acres and two-thirds of the ironworks. That same year Charles and his wife Priscilla had their first child born on the mansion, John.
Hampton mansion grew to a total of 25,000 acres in the 1820’s. Thoroughbred horses were raised by Charles Carnan who also had a racetrack installed. The huge estate also had grain crops, beef cattle, hogs, and marble quarries. The dirty side of the Ridgely holdings were the 300 slaves that worked in the fields and household. In his will, most of those slaves were freed in 1829 by Charles. His son, John, inherited the house and 4500 acres. The other heirs inherited the rest of the holdings.
During this time, John purchased 60 slaves to maintain the gardens and greenhouses and only freed one. Hampton Mansion had one of the largest citrus crops in the country.
The success of the mansion began to crumble with the end of slavery in Maryland in 1864.
In 1867, John’s son Charles inherited the property. When Charles died in 1872, the house and 1000 acres were inherited was his son, "Captain John" Ridgely. This same year, major renovations were done to the mansion.
When Captain John died in 1938, the property was passed to his son, John Ridgely Jr. who stayed in the mansion until 1948 when the mansion and 43 acres were designated as a National Historical Site. John Ridgely Jr. and his wife moved to the farmhouse.
Distant view of the farm and slave quarters
Hampton Mansion was open to the public in May 1949. The National Park Service took over the administration of the property in 1979. Hampton Mansion was closed to the public in 2005 for three years to undergo $3 million in major renovations. The mansion was opened to the public in November 2007.
A room on the second floor is dedicated to old photographs of the Hampton Mansion, grounds and some of its occupants. This is a wonderful historic home to visit. The wonderful part of the trip is that it is free to the public. For the avid photographer, pictures are allowed to help you sharpen up your architectural photography skills.
The hours are:
Mansion Open: Daily, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Mansion Tours: Daily, 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m., 4 p.m.
Allow approximately 45 minutes for each tour.
Lower House Open: Daily, 10 a.m. - Noon, 1 p.m. - 4 p.m.
Tour of Home Farm: Daily, 2 p.m.
Allow 30 minutes
Slave quarters, dairy, stable, and family cemetery: Daily 9:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Source: Research, photos & text by Bryan Wright
Official Hampton Mansion Site
Historic Hampton, Inc.
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