Every year, I help with the decorating of “The Palace in the Woods”, Hampton Mansion National Historic site, for their Yuletide celebration. Back in the eighteenth century, Hampton was a large estate built in the Georgian architectural style, situated on many acres including a farm, greenhouses, slave quarters, an orangery, large Italianate gardens, horse stables, cemetery, and an English style park-like setting. Built as a country seat just after the Revolutionary War by the prominent Ridgely family, the house and its immediate surroundings are just a remnant of the Hampton estate of the early 1800s.
Decorating the Mansion along with the Park service is a lot of fun, and gives me ideas on decorating my house with fresh greens, garland, natural materials, and fresh flowers and fruit – all materials that were used back “in the day”, Williamsburg or Colonial style.
Located in the music room, the Christmas tree exudes Victorian elegance with the hand-made ornaments reflecting the ornate Victorian era. The screens in the background are hand painted with colorful scenes and the furnishings reflect the lavish decorating in vogue at that time for the wealthy.
Place settings are in the cranberry colors befitting the Yuletide season, and sideboards and tables are laid with the house silver and groaning with food ( good quality fakes), but set up for a typical Christmas dinner of the period.
The Federated Maryland Garden Clubs take charge of the festive greenery decorations, as well as the fresh floral arrangements, all with the time period in mind when choosing materials. There are dilapidated greenhouses on site, slated to be restored, which the Ridgelys used for out of season food and flowers.
We meet in the old Orangery to work our magic on beautifying the mansion. Armed with fresh-cut greens, we bring cut flowers, pods, cones, fruit, and pomanders. The Park Service also will cut some special greens from the landscape, like ivy berries, which are beautiful and cut boxwood.
At night the mansion is full of musicians, carolers, and docents who will answer questions about daily life of the Ridgelys, as well as the many slaves who lived on the grounds.
If you are in the Towson area this weekend, be sure to stop in Friday, December 13, from 6 to 8:30 PM, and Saturday and Sunday, from 1 to 4PM.
- ‘Holidays at Hampton’ celebration kicks off December 13th (baltimorenewsjournal.com)