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Happy New Year from Hampton

We’re a little delinquent in posting, but as you might imagine it’s been a busy few weeks.  We had a very successful three weekend fundraiser for the horse rescue as we talked about in the preceding post.  That pretty much took us straight into the holidays.  After a very short break to catch our breath, we refocused and held our first holiday open house on New Year’s Day.  I have to imagine we had about 50 guests of so stop by and see the house, ride the horses and tour the grounds.  The weather could not have cooperated better for us.  Thanks to all of you who came out!

As the calendar turns over each year our attention turns to the gardens.  With another 60 degree weekend last week we actually got our hands dirty tilling in the ample composted horse manure we have here and getting a good start on the future vegetable garden.  I also managed to get a couple of large limbs safely to the ground which were left over from the hurricane this summer.  We also started the daunting task of reinvigorating our fruit trees.  There’s a lot of wood to trim out of most them before we’ll stand any chance of blight free apples.

We’re planning to put in lilac walk in the back and scattering Bayberry bushes around the perimeter of the property.  They’ll make for a nice harvest of fragrant oils that we can use for soap making and we might even try our hand at Bayberry candles.  And to be sure, I’ve been looking at 18th and 19th century beer recipes.  That’s likely to happen in 2012.

Sorry again for the long time between posts.  I’ll try to get some photos posted up showing the house in its holiday attire.  Warm wishes everyone!

We were so pleased to offer “Holidays with the Horses” here at Hampton Plantation. Once again, the Freedom Hill Horse Rescue pulled off an amazing two-day event and had a battery of volunteers on hand to decorate the barn. Really, we’re the beneficiaries of a wonderful, well-organized charity.

So what was the event all about? Well the Deck the Barn and get the kids out for professional photographs with the horses – who by the way, were all decorated themselves. This event will be repeated for the next couple of weekends, so shoot me a message if you’re interested in swinging by!

This is the house circa 1882. This is actually the same year, if the photo was dated accurately, that the Hampton was sold away from the Talbotts for $6,000. The plantation at that time consisted of 547 acres. I found a digital copy of the original deed in a new Maryland online database.

We’ve started on the first room…the dining room.  The windows need a complete refurbishment, but that’s a big undertaking.  And, with Thanksgiving nearly upon us we’ve opted for a paint job.  After much deliberation and the purchase of the Windsor chairs, we’re going with a late colonial/early federal period dark on light paint theme.  We’re doing a chalky simulated white-wash on the walls and ceiling and what I believe you’ll find is a very traditional gray/blue on all the trim.  I’ve posted a little teaser pic from the work today and the front hall with the new Windsors.

Center Hall with new Windsor chairs

Dining room showing new paint colors.

After much deliberation we’ve decided what direction we’re going to take with the dining room.  Our first idea was to go rather formal, but a visit to the Great Windsor Chairs company in Lancaster, PA changed our mind.

Since the house was originally built around 1825 as a Country Federal style plantation house, one would likely not have seen plush and ornate accommodations. In fact, I suspect there would have a been a mix of older furniture in the new house surroundings. I believe it would have been possible or even highly likely that the very popular and comfortable Windsor Chair would have been found here. And believe me, if you haven’t sat a spell in a Windsor you should!

So what were going to do with the dining room is a little more austere late Colonial/early Federal style…white wash walls, with gray chair rail, mouldings and fireplace surround. We’ve ordered a group of Windsor side chairs and two Fan-Back Windsor’s for either end of the table. We’ll eventually replace our table with a wider and longer table better suited to the size of the room…but as always, money seems to dictate the decision-making. We’ll post some pics as the project moves along.

Archeology Update

We’ve done our first bit of archeology on the grounds…albeit very limited and not particularly structured or academic in nature.  What we did was a couple of straightline runs with the metal detector right off the kitchen.  If you’ve seen the old HABS (Historic American Buildings Survey) photo of the house on the Library of Congress website, it’s roughly adjacent to the old structure directly behind the kitchen and visible on the right side of the picture.  We figured there was probably a lot junk to be found in this area and certainly the way the metal detector was singing, there is. 

The detector was lighting up on the “all metal” search so I put it into a discrimination mode so I could test for less common metals than busted up pieces of iron and old nails.  Coming back towards the house at the end of my first run I got a different signal.  So we started digging.  About 8″ down we hit a layer of gravel underneath all the soft sandy topsoil we have here.  I started hand sifting through the gravel and dirt and uncovered a handful of old iron nails, some type of iron line or cable and what appears to be the outside/front part of a pocket watch case.  Interestingly, it appears to be aluminum…which seems unexpected, but I’m definitively NOT an expert on the history of time pieces.  So I think our next step is to assemble a 1/4″ sifter and starting doing this the right way.  I’ll post all our discoveries right here on the blog.  In the meantime, check out what we found:

some iron nails and possibly a pocket watch case from our first dig

Today, on a very rainy and cold Saturday, we took an afternoon drive to Fredericksburg, VA to go to the Mid Atlantic Historic Home Show.  A small, but very interesting conference.  We spent the majority of our time with an expert in window sash restoration.  We’ve probably got a cracked pane of glass in nearly every window in the house.  I suspect it’s house settling, sticking windows and/or the related “slamming” that tends to result from old windows that don’t open and close too well anymore.  Either way, like I said most have a broken pane of glass, nearly all are stuck and have fairly thick, cracking coats of paint.  Interestingly, we learned that if you have good storm windows on the exterior of the house (interior storm windows are another topic for another day), then essentially you’ve halted the destruction of the window and don’t need to panic.  We’re fortunate because we do have attractive, sound and functional storm’s protecting all of the glass in the house.  Therefore, we can really take thoughtful approach to the restoration. 

What we are having done very soon is a chimney survey and inspection.  We found a specialist at the show that will take laboratory samples of your mortar and have new mortar mixed that chemically duplicates what was used in the original construction.  They explained that it’s important, because foreign compounds tend to trap water between the compound and original materials…which hastens additional damage.  We’ll take them up for their offer of an inspection, but I think we’ll get a competing bid to make sure we have a couple of perspectives on this little piece of information.

In closing, I’ll leave you with a little event news.  We’re going to be hosting a holiday picture event in the barn.  We’ll have a photographer here to pictures of kids and families with holiday decorated horses, ponies and sheep.  Should be a pretty neat event with hot cider, bonfire, and other usual holiday trimmings.  If you get a chance, come on out and see the place and get a holiday picture.  It’s all to help fund the Freedom Hill Horse Rescue charity, with whom we have a wonderful relationship.  You can get information about the event on the Facebook page:  http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=206823549386632

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