Hampton National Historic Park
Tobacco farmer and trader Colonel Charles Ridgely bought land known as ‘Northampton’ in April 1745. It was already used to cultivate tobacco, but Ridgely also developed the very successful Northampton Furnace and Forge. The pig iron produced by the ironworks was taken to London on a ship commanded by Ridgely’s son, Captain Charles Ridgely. When the Colonel died in 1772 business was thriving and during the Revolutionary War the production of cannon and ammunition for the Continental Army was even more lucrative. In 1783 Captain Ridgely increased his land holdings by purchasing lands confiscated from Loyalists and he decided to build a mansion at Northampton. He called it Hampton House and it took seven years to complete. In 1790 the Georgian style mansion was the largest private home in America, but Ridgely had little time to enjoy it as he died later that year. He left Hampton to his nephew, Charles Carnan, with the proviso that the young man had to take the Ridgely name. Charles Carnan Ridgely expanded the business further by exploiting coal and marble that was discovered on his lands. He died in 1829, freeing Hampton's slaves in his will and leaving the estate to his son John Carnan Ridgely. The boom years were over, after the Civil War Ridgely had to rent out land to tenant farmers then in 1929 much of the farmland was subdivided to build housing. The Ridgely family remained at the mansion until 1948 when they sold the house and remaining land to the Avalon Foundation who in 1979 passed it on to the National Park Service.
The heated Orangery was built in the 1820s. It was used to house potted citrus plants in the colder months, in summer they were moved outside and placed around the terraced gardens. The Orangery burned down in 1926 but a replica was built on the original foundations 50 years later.
Charles Carnan Ridgely raised thoroughbred horses and even had his own racetrack built at Hampton. These two stone stables were built to house the horses.
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Drawing Room of Mansion
The Ridgely’s entertained many prominent guests so Hampton was originally fitted in the then fashionable styles of ancient Greece and Rome. Later owners adopted adopted the style of the Victorian era but did not make it any less lavish. Click Tab 2 to see the Master Bedroom.
Lower House & Slave Quarters
Looking at the mansion it is easy to forget that it was in the centre of a working farm. In Maryland, prior to the Civil War, you needed a farm house from which to run the farm and quarters for the slaves. The farm house (on the left in the picture) is known as Lower House. Parts of it pre-date the purchase of ‘Northampton’ by Colonel Charles Ridgely and it is where the family lived before the mansion was completed. When the Ridgelys moved out it became the residence of the farm manager. John Ridgely Jr. and his wife Jane moved in to the Lower House in 1948 when they vacated the mansion, and they lived there until their deaths. On the right of the picture is the Slave Quarters which now houses an exhibit on the life of slaves.
Captain Ridgely did not employ an architect to design the mansion. It seems that the master carpenter, Jehu Howell, did much of the design work in line with Ridgely's vision. Ridgely claimed to be related to the owners of Castle Howard in Yorkshire, England. The design with its large octagonal cupola may well have been inspired by Castle Howard although the wings of Hampton are considerably smaller. The grounds and Italiannate gardens of Hampton National National Historic Park are open daily while the house is open for guided tours only Thursday to Sunday.
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