Travel reviews by
Hampton National Historic Site
Based on 55 traveler reviews
GRAND MANSION BUILT TO IMPRESS
Nov 19, 2014 by: Maurene_K from Dover, New Hampshire
One of the first facts the NPS Rangers tell visitors is that George Washington’s Mount Vernon and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello could fit inside this three-story Georgian mansion with plenty of room to spare. The plantation house is massive. Everything is on a grand scale with 17-foot-high ceilings. Hampton was built to impress. In 1745, Col. Charles Ridgely, a tobacco farmer and trader, bought the land that already had some houses, tobacco barns, and stables. His son Capt. Charles Ridgely began construction of the grand mansion at Hampton in 1783. Castle Howard in England, owned by his mother’s relatives, inspired the design. When completed with additions in 1790, it was the largest private home in the United States. In all, seven generations of Ridgelys owned the estate from 1745 to 1948. Today it is considered to be one of the finest examples of Georgian architecture in the United States. The National Park Service has done a superb job at restoration and preservation of this fabulous property. On the tour, one sees a copy of Thomas Sully's famous portrait titled “Lady with a Harp” (1818) which is of Eliza Ridgely. It is in the central hallway. The original now hangs in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. She was a musician. She and her husband collected most of the furnishings, the family's collection of oil paintings, silverware, and ceramics comprising that one sees on the tour. The estate’s inventory contains about 7,000 items. The parlor and dining room are elegantly furnished. The dining room table service and silver serving pieces reflect the Ridgely family's great wealth. One will also notice ornate carvings on woodwork and trim even up near the ceiling. The Ridgelys employed many artisans in building and finishing this mansion. As one would expect of such a grand plantation mansion, there were slaves---about 300---that worked there at various tasks from housekeeping and cooking to farming and tending the stables. Charles Carnan Ridgely freed most of his slaves upon his death in 1829; however, indentured servitude continued under Charles’s successor John Carnan Ridgely and lasted until the American Civil War ended. In 1945, “Lady with a Harp” was sold to the National Gallery of Art. David Finley, director of the gallery, became an advocate for the preservation of Hampton. In 1948, he helped to arrange the deal whereby The Ridgelys sold Hampton to Ailsa Mellon Bruce's Avalon Foundation. After 30 years of administration by Preservation Maryland from 1949 - 1979, the National Park Service acquired the property in 1979. In January 2005, the mansion closed for almost three years as it underwent the major restoration project. The mansion’s rooms were refurnished with historical accuracy right down to wallpaper from an English company that had made the original wallpaper. Fire suppression and climate control systems were installed to protect and preserve the mansion’s interior and furnishings. Hampton National Historic Site reopened to the public on November 30, 2007. As a historian and preservationist, I was pleased to hear that the mansion is historically accurate on furnishings, paints, wallpaper, etc. and that it is all being preserved with A/C, dehumidifiers, etc. It is so much more telling and meaningful to tour a home/mansion that is historically accurate with the actual belongings of the family that lived there as opposed to period furniture gathered from various sources. For those who participate in the Passport to Your National Parks Program, the location of the passport cancellation station is on the side table near entrance to the gift shop/bookstore. There are two cancellation stamps. They read: ● Hampton National Historic Site - Towson, MD ● Hampton NHS - Underground RR Freedom Network This is one of many National Park Services units that features free admission. After the mansion tour, go for the full experience and explore the grounds, gardens, orchards, and outbuildings that include the orangery smokehouse, woodshed, garage, pump house, privies, ice house, greenhouses, and stables, plus the family cemetery. Across Hampton Lane one will find the dairy, Long House Granary, the Lower House, Dove Cote, the worker’s quarters, the mule barn, and the corn crib. From 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM on November 1, 2014, the special event Maryland 150th Emancipation Day Commemoration to celebrate that landmark new state constitution. There are other special events on the site’s calendar periodically. Hampton National Historic Site should be on the itinerary of everyone visiting Baltimore and/or Northern Maryland. Towson is about 15 miles / 20 minutes from Downtown Baltimore and about 18 miles / 25 minutes from Joppa, MD. One can easily spend ½ a day here. My visit was during the height of fall foliage season; and, although it was very beautiful then, I would revisit Hampton National Historic Site in the spring or summer when there are flowers in the gardens and the trees have green foliage. If you found this review helpful, kindly click YES below.
Oct 15, 2014 by: Karen M from Baltimore, Maryland
This a good place to check out. Best of all it is FREE. You can stroll all around the huge grounds that extend across the street to include servants quarters and a dairy. The house is beautiful and if you get the chance go when it is all dressed up for the holidays.
Unknown but wonderful property in MD
Sep 30, 2014 by: Panner1995 from Baltimore, Maryland
My mom had found out about this historic site through her Historic Preservation magazine, and we decided to visit it. We were not disappointed. It is so interesting because a coworker of mine said that she lived in Towson for fourteen years and never visited, and a woman in our tour group said that she had lived in Towson since 1964, and this was her first visit. I wish more people knew what was in their backyard! This mansion was special because, as our tour guide Jack pointed out, it the only historic site not famous for a battle/war or anything other significant event. The house dates from the Revolutionary War. The tours normally last forty-five minutes, but our guide must have wanted to say more this day because ours lasted an hour and a half. It was a Sunday, and when our tour was done, it was around 330. The museum store closes at 4, and the cemetery is locked at 430. We wanted to go to the lower houses, and we were told that vehicles can go until 5, but the entrance was already closed at 440. I am not sure why. Overall though, it was a fascinating tour, and we learned a ton of fun information. The guide also recommended going back during Yuletide.
A secret gem no more
Sep 12, 2014 by: EmEs from orlando
Because we are going to tell everyone we know about this marvelous National Park Service plantation. At the beginning of the week, we visited Monticello and Montpelier. But, this tourist site is right up there with the finest, in my opinion. Actually, I think, in some respects, this is even a better tour. First of all, we were surprised by the great number of original artifacts, including art, that remain in the home. Second of all, there is the best exhibit on slavery, pre and post Civil War, that we have ever seen. The National Park guide, Anokwale, gave a marvelous talk on what it was like for African Americans working the plantation during the time. So visit the home, then drive down the hill to the Lower House for the "workers" tour. It's a hands-on experience for children, about aged 9 and up, so I would suggest that as part of their experience. Actually, for children, the Lower House experience would probably be more interesting. Thirdly, there is no charge for this attraction, but a simple donation box in the lobby. This is a true gem and hopefully, a secret no more. Lastly, kudos to the National Park Service for having the courage to shine a light on slavery during the Civil War, and doing it in a thought-provoking way.
Easy trip from Baltimore
Aug 24, 2014 by: Marcie81 from Burke, Virginia
We visited Fort Mchenry and found out about this place. Beautiful property and the tour price was free! The tour guide was very informative and answered questions easily. Most of the articles in the mansion are original and the rooms are set up to look like they would have back in the day. The tour lasted about 45 minutes. It is a large property and has lots of buildings to check out. Make sure to also visit the lower house (across the street). It looked like a new visitor center is being built. Not sure what that will do to entrance fees, but it will add extra parking. Lovely excurision if you are in the Baltimore/Towson area.
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