Long-time Trust Member Gregory Weidman Shares Hampton National Historic Site
Curator Gregory Weidman began her virtual tour stating, “95% of what Hampton National Historic Site exhibits in our period rooms is original to the house, the site, and Ridgley family.” Any history aficionado will recognize this percentage as a remarkably high rate of survival that presents an incredible opportunity to garner a deeper understanding of seven generations of occupancy, from 1790–1948. Each room is set in a different period of time, extending from the 18th century to the 20th century, which allows visitors to see the evolution of styles, forms, and technologies.
Moving from the Great Hall to the Parlor, Gregory introduced a space that reflects the period of 1790-1810. Captain Charles Ridgley, who founded the ironworks that was the basis for the Ridgley fortune, is depicted in a portrait by John Hesselius (1728–1778) that hangs over the fireplace. The Neoclassical furniture in the room was primarily made in Maryland, including an important armchair by Annapolis cabinetmaker John Shaw (1745–1829). This balance between objects significant to family history and art history makes Hampton a special place.
Documentation proves that two parlor suites produced 12–15 years apart occupied the Drawing Room concurrently in the pre-Civil War period. This room is unique in that all of the furnishings are original to the house. The more significant set was made by Baltimore craftsman John Finlay (active 1803-1841) and includes a square-back sofa, 14 chairs, a center table, and a pier table all exhibiting hand-painted Classical ornamentation. A receipt of sale dates the furniture to 1832. Gregory also discussed a Parisian ewer given to the Ridgley family from General Lafayette.
After sharing the remarkable Music Room, Gregory told us about the ethnographic study she spearheaded at Hampton beginning in 2017. Hampton emphasizes the stories of those who lived and worked at the house alongside the Ridgley family. At the height of the plantation in 1829, Governor Charles Carnan Ridgley owned nearly 350 enslaved individuals. Thorough investigations allowed an enormous expansion of knowledge surrounding the history of those who labored at Hampton, and research has uncovered hundreds of living descendants of the enslaved. We thank Gregory for sharing her knowledge of the Hampton National Historic Site as well as this important and impactful work.
Watch the virtual tour here to see more of Hampton’s period rooms and learn about the ethnographic study:
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Formerly known as the "blog,” the Bulletin features new research and scholarship, travelogues, book reviews, and museum and gallery exhibitions. The Bulletin complements The Magazine of the Decorative Arts Trust, our biannual members publication.