Hampton- America’s Story in a Mansion

The Mansion at Hampton
On 60 acres just North of Baltimore, lies the remaining piece of what was once of America’s grandest estates, owned by one of early America’s most powerful families, The Ridgelys. It is amazing to see how much of America’s history can be witnessed through the story of this family and their estate. 
Captain Charles Ridgley- paining hanging in entrance hallway
The first Ridgley to have success in the New World was Captain Charles Ridgely, who made his fortune first in merchant shipping, then later from iron works. He was a major supplier of iron implements, arms and ammunition to the American colonists during the Revolutionary War period. The new government, unable to pay Captain Ridgely in hard currency, paid him instead with large land grants on and near the Eastern Seaboard.
Charles Carnan Ridgely
Dying childless in 1790, the Captain left his vast holdings to his nephew, Charles Carnan Ridgely, provided he take on Ridgely as his surname to keep the family name alive. Under Charles, who was elected Governor of Maryland, and his son, John Carnan Ridgely, the Ridgely fortunes grew and prospered even further. The plantation became home to massive field of grain crops, beef cattle and thoroughbred horses. The Ridgely’s also expanded from iron works into coal mining, marble quarries and mills. In 1828, John married Eliza Eichelberger Ridgely (no relation) and this marriage saw the mansion grow in prestige and opulence.
The Hampton estate began it’s decline during the Civil War. Being a border state, and a slave state, John Ridgely’s sympathies lied with the Confederacy. Although not formally occupied by the Northern Army, the Ridgely’s were forced to remain neutral during the war, knowing that any activity that supported the South could very well end in the loss of their property and holdings.
Slave Quarters
Part of what makes Hampton remarkable today is the care given to telling not just the story of the Ridgely family, but also the attention given to the other residents of the plantation, the slaves and indentured servants, on whose back and by whose toil this highly successful operation was built. Down the hill from the main house lies preserved slave & servants quarters, as well as the Farm House, which was lived in by the many hired overseers of the work.
The Parlor- decorated from John & Eliza’s era
John & Eliza’s son, Charles, inherited the house in 1867. Five years later, the estate’s Fifth Master, John Ridgely, inherited the mansion and the surrounding property. During the 1880s, the mansion received a major renovation under the watchful eye of John’s mother. The Sixth Master, John Ridgely, Jr, inherited the property in 1938. By this time, much of the surrounding lands had been sold for the building of other houses. 
The Orangery
In 1948, the Mansion and 43 acres were designated at National Historic Site, and in 1979 the National Park Service took over management of the mansion and more than 60 acres of surrounding land after the home was donated by Mellon Family Trust after John Ridgely, Jr. sold the property to them. Today, through the hard work of the NPS and a private trust, most of the mansions rooms have been restored to reflect the prominence it held for more than two centuries.
The Main Dining Room- Early 1800s
During it’s heyday, Hampton was home to many fancy events and parties, especially during the Governorship of Charles Carnen Ridgely, and then later when John & Eliza were masters of the house. The decor inmost of the rooms was the best that was available during their eras.
The Master Bedroom
Hampton’s grounds are available for touring on a self guided basis, while tours of the Mansion and the Farm House are given throughout the day. Our tour of the mansion was given by one of Hampton’s many informative volunteers, and was on of the best tours of a historic home I have even been on. During the summer, the grounds are full of volunteers and interpreters dressed in period costumes providing yet another resource to this already well-managed site.
The Entrance Hallway

 For visitors to Washington, Baltimore and even Philadelphia, Hampton makes for an easy and highly recommended day trip. It is a site where part of the America story truly lies around every corner. 

One Response to “Hampton- America’s Story in a Mansion”

  1. Kris says:

    Interesting post. I'll have to add this to my list of great houses. Hoping to the Vanderbilt Mansion in NY this weekend!

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