Historic Structures

Building Description Hampton Mansion, Towson Maryland

The house is of massive scale and dominates the top of the hill on which it was built. The octagonal cupola, unique among eighteenth century houses in America, is reminiscent of Castle Howard, Yorkshire, England. It is traditionally supposed that Captain Ridgely was emulating the Howards from whom he was maternally descended.

Captain Charles Ridgely's accounts note that Jehu Howe11, who boarded with the Ridgelys for some time, and William Richardson were working at "my house now building" in August of 1783. Captain Ridgely's will of 1787 refers to "the new house I am now building." Rebecca Ridgely wrote in her diary on December 8, 1788, that she had moved into the mansion. Additional research in the Ridgely family papers at the Maryland Historical Society may substantiate the traditional completion date of January 1790, six months prior to Captain Ridgely's death in 1790.

No references have been found to date which indicate the excavation for the basement and foundations, though on August l, 1783, "Scotts waggons begun this Day to haul Stone." Ten weeks of stone entries in the accounts pertained to the work of David and George Scott. The work, apparently halted during the winter, was again noted the following spring. Additional quantities of stone were noted from April to August of 1784. In September brick was hauled from Baltimore. Hearth stones were noted in 1785. The masonry work has generally been credited to Moses Dillon, who was for many years a trusted mechanic at Hampton and who supervised his own masons.

Lumber was delivered from Josias Penington on March 10, 1783. On July 7, Ridgely purchased additional lumber from Baltimore through Hollincpworth & Loney. In 1784 Edward Parker supplied "Plank." Pine plank was delivered from Baltimore in 1785. In July 1785, "Shingle Stuff" was delivered. Jehu Howell's estate billed Ridgely, probably in 1787, for carpenters' and joiners' work. From the bills it appears that much of the exterior of the house was completed including the roof structure with its dormers and cupola. Much finished interior woodwork and carpentry work was also completed, Mechanics mentioned in the accounts besides Richardson include Michael Shannon, Smithson and Fuller, a Mr. Coffey and John Dotson. Following Howell's death there was a great deal of minor detail completed including the finishing of rooms, shingling the hyphens, installation of gutters, installation of sash weights, and the laying of floors. Captain Ridgely contracted with Henry Carlile to complete the "Parlor."' Additional entries in the Ridgely accounts indicate a vast array of details regarding the building of the house, which was furnished with imported and estate made items.

The house was unaltered during the Ridgely tenure. The east hyphen was extended to the south circa 1820. Several spaces were partitioned at various dates. Alterations to the north porch were made by the architect E. G. Lind of Baltimore in 1850, who installed marble paving, balustrades and steps under the direction of Eliza Ridgely. She also had gas lighting installed in 1856 and was instrumental in having the west wing converted to a bathroom. Changing tastes in the late nineteenth century dictated leaded, colored glass in the hall and stair landing windows along with extensive interior decorative painting.

In 1948 and 1949 the house was extensively renovated and restored by the National Park Service under the direction of Charles E. Peterson, Regional Architect, and A. J. Higgins, Architect. The project included the installation of public restrooms in the basement, the strengthening of floors, the installation of a caretaker's apartment on the upper floors, and tea room facilities in the east wing and hyphen. The exterior stucco was patched and the sash were restored. J. Vinton Schafer & Sons of Baltimore were the contractors. Preservation projects were instituted for the cupola in 1960 and for the mansion in general in 1966, which resulted in the replacement of the deteriorated window frames of the main structure and the patching of adjacent stucco.