NPS Adventures: Hampton National Historic Site

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The Roarbots’ series of NPS Adventures takes a big-picture view of one location within the National Park Service and highlights some of the best activities that site has to offer. This is usually done through a kid-friendly lens and almost always includes activities and suggestions we can recommend from personal experience. And pictures. There are lots and lots of pictures. Glad to have you aboard!

Welcome to Hampton National Historic Site!

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The Hampton Mansion and estate (located near Towson, MD, just north of Baltimore) was owned by the Ridgely family for seven generations, from 1745 to 1948. It was the largest private home in the country when it was completed in 1790. In 1948, the mansion was the first to be named a National Historic Site, mostly owing to its architectural significance. In 1979, the National Park Service acquired the mansion, surrounding farmland, and associated structures – all of which is open to the public today.

The history of the property and of the family that owned it can be a little confusing, since most of the Ridgelys who owned the house were named Charles and John. Think of it a bit like One Hundred Years of Solitude but set in Maryland.

Today, the house and surrounding farm appear much as they might have during the 19th century. Most of the furniture and decorations around the house did indeed belong to the Ridgely family, which is one of the benefits of buying the property directly from the original family.

(Click on all pictures to embiggen.)

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House Tour

Guided tours of the mansion are free and leave on the hour according to a seasonal schedule. Check here for hours. The quality and detail of your tour will vary slightly depending on the ranger, but expect to spend at least an hour inside the house.

The ground and first floors of the house are open and decorated. The second floor, which apparently has 10 bedrooms is off limits and used for storage. Unfortunately, the cupola at the top of the mansion is also not part of the tour, though our tour guide teased us with the information that once a year, volunteers are taken up as a thank you “perk.”

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Surround the mansion are 63 acres of farmland and dozens of historic structures, including the farmhouse, slave quarters, tenant quarters, dairy, cemetery, stables, and ice house – most of which are open during the day.

The site also hosts several special events throughout the year, when the grounds come alive with interpretive, living history.

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Junior Rangers

There are three different Junior Ranger booklets, depending on the kids’ age. My daughter (7) completed the book meant for 5-7 years olds, and several of the questions/activities required a house tour. I’m assuming the others do as well.

The activities do a great job of engaging kids with the mansion and Ridgely family. My daughter had to hunt for the family crest inside the house, design her own family crest, compare and contrast items found in the hose with their modern equivalents, and several other activities.

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