Hampton Mansion – Towson, Maryland

Hampton Mansion – Towson, Maryland

The Hampton Mansion is a sedate Georgian mansion, elegantly furnished and settled amid gardens and shade trees.  And this is true, but the history of the Mansion is what is of interest to those searching for the founding of the area and what it took to make it the estate it is today.  As with many of the great estates of the nation this was developed with the work of not only the owners but also enslaved, British Prisoners of War, indentured servants, free workers, tradesmen, craftsmen.

Let’s start with the story of the indentured servants and convicts that worked on the estate between 1750 and 1800.  There is no record of the difference between the two groups.  There were at least 300 white servants that passed through Ridgely hands during this time.  Some were willing to come to begin a new life, others were convicts whom the state ordered transported to colonies during these years.  Most of the workers that were indentured were convicts.  The term ‘indentured servant’ is used here in a generic sense to describe all British workers under contract to labor for the Ridgelys and the Northampton ironworks.  The practice of using this form of labor died out in 1800 and the Hampton’s moved to using slaves.

The enslaved African-Americans were part of the estate for over 100 years, ending only when Maryland State law ended the institution in 1864.  It was with the work of the slaves and indentured workers as well as employed free workers that the mansion was built, the ironworks (which made the Ridgley’s wealthy) and the grounds were developed and maintained.

Hampton the showplace was very much the domain of the Ridgely family and their peers. But behind the scenes was a large community of people who labored at the ironworks, in the fields, on the docks and ships, in gardens and orchards, and inside the mansion. They lived and worked in obscurity in return for shelter, rations, of corn, pork, herring, flour, clothing, shoes, and perhaps, but not always income.

The slaves at the Hampton were different than the plantation slaves since the Ridgelys were involved in industry, resulting in industrial jobs for some of the enslaved population.  The Ridgelys enslaved over 500 people over the years but with the location of the estate being close to Baltimore and the slave free state of Pennsylvania refuges for runaways were close by.  The following owner of the estate enslaved approximately 350 persons at the time of his death and manumitted females between the ages of 25 and 45 and males between the ages of 28 and 45.  This is one of the largest manumissions in the history of Maryland, but it did not end slavery at Hampton since his son purchased some sixty or more slaves and manumitted only one!

The life of the slave was as diverse as the people that “owned” them.  Many were mistrusted and feared, some were given firearms.  Some were forced to live in squalor and yet others were dressed as well as their owners.

Today you can still see the vastness of the lands that were owned by the Ridgleys, although just a small portion of it remains with the estate.  If you stand in one of the upstairs windows at the mansion and look out over the lawns, suburban houses, and woodlands you will be able to envision just how vast the holdings of this family were.  The Hampton is the story of a family business, American industry using forced and hired labor, commerce and culture.  You will be able to track the historic changes that took place following the war and how the moral and economic changes of the country finally made this kind of life obsolete.  The Ridgelys once owned 25,000 acres of land, a property half the size of modern-day Baltimore. It included Lutherville, White Marsh, and parts of Baltimore City.

When you tour the estate keep in mind the people that created it.  There are those that called it home and were proud of it and those that were forced to work to make it the estate that the owners were proud of.

The Hampton offers a variety of experiences for the visitor from monthly second Sunday programs to special events.  There are guided tours or the opportunity to explore on your own.  You will be able to get a feel for a wide range of how life was in the 1700′s and the 1800′s.

If you are interested in a wedding at the mansion only small, outdoor, wedding ceremonies are allowed.  Food, tents, et cetera may NOT be erected on the grounds.  Other private functions are not allowed.

Hours (subject to change during different seasons)

Grounds
Daily; 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Mansion Open
Daily; 10:00 a.m.- 4:00 p.m.

Mansion Tours
Daily; 10:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., 2:00 p.m., 3:00 p.m., 4:00 p.m.
**The Mansion is scheduled to be closed on Monday, December 5 for Yuletide Exhibit installation. This date is subject to change. Please confirm with the park before planning to visit on this day.**

Lower House Open
Daily; 10:00 a.m.-Noon; 1:00 p.m.- 4:00 p.m.
*hours may vary based on staff availability

Home Farm Tours
Daily; 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.
Starts at Lower House; 40 minutes

Home Farm, Slave Quarters, Tenant Quarters, Dairy Open
Daily; 9:30 a.m.- 4:00 p.m.

Family Cemetery, Stables, Ice House Open
Daily; 9:30 a.m.- 3:30 p.m.
*The stables are currently closed.

Gardens and Grounds Tour
Saturday & Sunday; 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.

*All programs are subject to staff availability. Please call ahead to confirm park hours of operation.

*Buildings and walking paths may be closed due to weather conditions, including but not limited to snow and ice. Remember to use caution when walking the grounds at Hampton.

Hampton does not charge any entrance or visitor fees.

To schedule a group reservation please contact the park at 410-823-1309 x208.

- Groups of ten or more must make a group reservation.

Hampton does not have any food facilities on site.

- Only the first floor of the mansion is handicap accessible. (As of December 2010 the mansion is not accessible to individuals in wheelchairs.)

Directions:

BY CAR: Hampton is easy to get to because it’s close to three interstate highways–routes 695, 70, and 95. From the Baltimore Beltway (I 695) eastbound or westbound: Take Exit 27B, Dulaney Valley Road northbound. Take the first right turn onto Hampton Lane. The park will be on your right, about one mile from the intersection.

Hampton National Historic Site
535 Hampton Lane
Towson, MD 21286

The park is managed by the NPS.