Garden clubs host fundraiser to benefit Hampton Mansion
Groups work to maintain grounds and gardens of historic site in Towson
It takes a lot of time, talent and treasure to keep the grounds and gardens of Hampton National Historic Site looking beautiful.
With that in mind, a group of local garden clubs has organized a benefit, Beauty in Bloom, to raise money to restore and maintain the landscape of Towson’s only national park and the ancestral home of the Ridgelys, a leading Baltimore County family.
The benefit, set for Tuesday, will be hosted by the Federated Garden Clubs of Maryland District III, an umbrella organization of 26 clubs in Baltimore and Harford counties, and held at the historic home of the Woman’s Club of Roland Park.
The event includes presentations on fashion, food and flowers, a luncheon, vendors and a raffle of items from vacations to Baltimore Ravens tickets. For more information go to historichampton.org.
Several garden club members are also members of Historic Hampton Inc., which raises money and awareness for the upkeep of Hampton in partnership with the National Park Service. That makes the fundraiser a natural pairing, said event chairwoman Carol Whitman, a Murray Hill resident who is a member of Hampton’s board of directors and a member of the Woodbrook-Murray Hill Garden Club.
The idea for the event came from the Lutherville Garden Club, said Betty Reeves, a Lutherville member and director of the Federated Garden Clubs of Maryland District III. At the club’s suggestion, District III took over planning.
“It’s a lot of work for one club,” said Whitman. “We wanted to spread out the duties.”
Historic Hampton Inc. has worked with local garden clubs on many restoration and conservation projects at the site, which Whitman describes as “a textbook in the evolution of historic landscaping from colonial times through today.”
The Glen Arm Garden Club, for example, has planted and maintained an herb garden at the site since1966. Garden clubs also have provided funding for a summer intern who plants and maintains the formal gardens at the site, which features a historic mansion and a 63-acre park with several state champion trees and dozens of historic structures.
“They’ve been great supporters for years and years,” Suzie Merryman, chair of Historic Hampton Inc., said of the clubs. “It’s wonderful that we have their support.”
Hampton’s gardens were renowned in the 19th century, said Gregory Weidman, Hampton’s curator.
The Ridgely family included industrialists who established an ironworks that provided arms to the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, as well as one of Maryland’s early governors, Charles Carnan Ridgely.
The house’s mistresses, including Eliza Ridgely, the wife of John Carnan Ridgely, who lived in the house during the mid-19th century, were instrumental in the design of the gardens.
The garden layouts were inspired by the formal gardens of Europe. The Great Terrace, with its serpentine path and geometric “falling gardens,” was probably laid out soon after construction of the Ridgely home was finished in 1790, Weidman said.
“Terrace gardens like this, with designed plantings, were quite popular in the Chesapeake region, Maryland and Tidewater Virginia through the late Colonial and early Federal period,” Weidman said, noting that the gardens evolved as tastes changed.
Brooke Derr, the National Park Service horticulturist at Hampton, said that because voluminous records were kept through the years, park officials have a good idea of how the gardens were planted.
However, while historic accuracy is maintained where possible, modern needs force some changes. Because of problems with deer, for instance, “we have to pick different plants that evoke the look or function of the original,” Derr said.
Once the Beauty in Bloom fundraiser has wrapped up, organizers will meet with park service staff to determine which projects to fund, Whitman said.
“Garden clubs enjoy beauty in nature, and Beauty in Bloom celebrates how nature inspires so many aspects of our life,” she said. “By supporting the restoration and preservation of the landscape at Hampton, we can see how, through the centuries in America, our lives have been formed and enriched by it.”
Carol Whitman is a board member of Historic Hampton Inc. and a member of Federated Garden Clubs of Maryland, which will hold a benefit for the Hampton National Historic Site.