Hampton Mansion awaits rediscovery (Maryland)
Hampton Mansion has plenty of historical and architectural significance. All it needs is a higher profile.
The mansion, maintained by the National Park Service, is considered one of the finest examples of Georgian architecture in the country. It's one of just a handful of plantation homes with extant slave quarters. With 25,000 square feet of living space, it was the largest private home in the U.S. when it was completed in 1790.
Hampton sits on 63 acres just outside the Baltimore Beltway, less than a mile from the heart of Towson, a bustling suburb directly north of the city. And yet many area residents don't know the first thing about it.
"You say 'National Park Service' in Baltimore and you immediately think of Fort McHenry," said Rhoda Dorsey, president emeritus of Historic Hampton Inc., a nonprofit that supports the site. "You don't think of anything else."
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James W Loewen - 1/2/2008
Hampton gets minuscule visitation, considering that it is within a few minutes of I95, perhaps the busiest interstate in the U.S. Until recently, this low visitation has been a good thing, because Hampton tours often began with the statement, "Every National Park Service site has a historical reason to be in the Park Service, except this one." Then followed a tour emphasizing the architecture and furnishings, period.
The "s" word never occurred, and few visitors toured Hampton's intact slave quarters, much nicer than typical abodes for enslaved persons. Indeed, they were rarely open.
Last fall, Hampton opened a small exhibit in the slave quarters and is taking hesitant steps toward telling the story(ies) of the vast majority of people who lived there. Maybe they will eventually include what happened there during the Civil War (emancipation) and Reconstruction, as well. They still have a long distance to go, however.
For a critique, see the "Maryland" chapter of LIES ACROSS AMERICA.
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