My wife and I have been meaning to visit Hampton National Historic Site for a long time and finally made our way there. Here is an excellent example of our tax dollars at work. Since Hampton Mansion is a National Historic Site, there is no admission charge. There is a Visitor's Center located near the entrance to the site and a Park Ranger on duty, who can provide information on guided tours. A guided tour is necessary if you would like to see the interior of the Hampton Mansion (which, I'm sure you will). Make sure to check the website for the times when tours are offered. The guides can only take 15 people per tour so you'll want to arrive early (first come, first served). The Hampton Mansion is particularly interesting because the Ridgely family occupied it from 1790 to 1948. When it was built, it was one of the largest Georgian style mansions in the United States and the furnishings reflect the wealth of the Ridgelys. You can tour the grounds, gardens, and outbuildings on your own. Among these outbuildings are three workers' quarters, including those used by slaves, which helps provide a better sense of the economic realities behind the wealth of the Ridgelys. We checked out the ice house, which is kind of spooky. Stone steps lead 33 feet down into a vault-like area that was filled in winter with snow and ice to be used for food preparation and refrigeration. There is a small but beautiful area with patterned gardens or parterres, one of which survives in its original design. Although the property is a lot smaller than the 25,000 acres that it boasted between the years 1790 and 1829, the current grounds (60 acres) offer much to see. There is even a Ridgely family cemetery on the property. While you're walking about, don't miss the catalpa trees, which are at least as old as the Hampton Mansion. We enjoyed our tour of the Mansion and look forward to returning to Hampton National Historic Site to explore the other buildings in the very near future.
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