Angles on Attingham

By Rachel Lovett, Curator, Hammond-Harwood House after attending the 2019 Attingham Summer School  which explores 26 great British Country Houses during the month of July.

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View from the window at Flintham House

The iconic British Countryside conjures up images of a grand house, set against the backdrop of rolling hills and sheep dotting the countryside. American’s have long been Anglophiles obsessed with the English great house and it can be witnessed through discussing Downtown Abbey drama or Jane Austen fan clubs. After this summer I am happy to report that those images you all fancy are alive and well and living in places like Sussex and Derbyshire!

This July I had the opportunity to attend the 68th class of the Attingham Summer School, which is an 18 residential course that explores, art, architecture, and landscape of 26 great British Country houses. It is entirely in the country, I did not go to London once. The summer school was developed in 1952 not on British soil, but rather a garden in Washington D.C. -Dumbarton Oaks, owned by American heiress and philanthropist Mildred Bliss. Bliss was in conversation with a Helen Lowenthal, an educator from Britain. The two conspired to create a school where American curators could better understand the context behind their British collections. The school was initially based at Attingham Park, a country house then serving as a college, and it is what the program is named for.

Changing needs led to the removal from that site and the course now starts the program at West Dean College, also a country house, converted to a college for conservators. Attingham was created during a pivotal time for the British country house which then was looming on extinction as over 600 houses were demolished from 1870 to 1974. At one point in the mid-20th century a few every week were being destroyed. High death taxes and large maintenance fees were largely the reason, and families were left with very difficult decisions. Giving your home or collection to the National Trust was an option but only for those selected. Therefore the Attingham course, first of its kind, helped to shed light and scholarly interest on these sites for their significance to the country.

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West Dean College

Initially the Attingham program was designed with Americans in mind, however now the makeup is roughly 50% American, 40% British and 10% from countries around the world. The course is highly regarded in the museum field for training mid-career level curators and conservators in this immersive three week course that challenges professionals to think in creative ways to interpret their British collections.

In the United States most historic house museums have some influence from British architecture, and the home where I curate in Maryland is no exception. The historic Hammond-Harwood House c.1774 was designed by Oxford born architect William Buckland and constructed in the Anglo-Palladian style. Our collection dates to about 1770 to 1830 and has a high percentage of British artifacts. Therefore I am constantly using British archives and narratives to get a better context of our past. In the following post I will highlight the connections between the British country house and Hammond-Harwood House.

Architecture

Architecture has long been used a way to advance status. Matthias Hammond, the original owner of the Hammond-Harwood House, sought out English born architect William Buckland in 1774 to design his home. Buckland carefully poured over design books and looked back to the Palladian designs he had seen in his hometown of Oxford and London where he trained. Buckland engaged in a centuries old tradition of creating a masterpiece for a demanding and invested client who hoped to demonstrate their taste, wealth and status through their home, like the British country house.

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William Buckland by Charles Willson Peale c. 1774. Yale University Art Gallery.

During my trip I went to several castles, and I was immediately struck by the grandeur and age of these immense edifices. As an American historian, life for me began in the 17th century. However, British architectural history goes back more than 700 years before the pilgrims first landed, and I wondered what connections, if any, would find to the home in Annapolis where I curated.

If we look at the medieval or Jacobean castle at first glance there may not be a lot of connections between the Hammond-Harwood House and a site like Cowdray, a 16th century manor house now a ruin after a 1793 fire. However, if you look a little closer a connection can be made to Cowdray or any other medieval castle. The anatomy of a medieval castle or manor is pretty standard. The center of the household revolves around a great hall. The hall was where dining occurred, visitors gathered, and was the heartbeat of the social life within the castle walls. It was generally found on what the English call the ground floor, and Americans would call the first floor. I assure there was a lot of confusion for American’s upon check at the three spots we stayed given this difference!

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Cowdray in Sussex

Each medieval castle also had a long gallery found in the higher levels. This served to showcase the family’s ancestral paintings and treasures like at Parham House in Sussex. Other examples of halls I saw include Hardwick hall in Derbyshire and Broughton Castle in Oxfordshire just to name a few.

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Parham House Long Gallery

In addition to the great hall and long gallery, each structure also had a private wing for family use, their own turret tower in a castle. The connection to Hammond-Harwood House comes from firsthand account in the 1835 daybook of Frances Loockerman. She lived in the Hammond-Harwood House from 1811 when she moved in as a young  mother to her death in 1857. She called Hammond-Harwood House her “castle” and indeed this structure shuts up just like a fortress with seven locks on the front door and five on all of the others. Furthermore, she called her bedroom, the inner most sanctum of her world, her “North East Turret of my castle”.

Northeast Chamber

North East Bedchamber at Hammond-Harwood House

In an English country house you will often find an area of the house called the state apartments. These quarters contain a sitting room, bedroom, and often an additional meeting space. Designated for royal visits, these apartments were made for a grand display to show your best bed and furnishings. At the Hammond-Harwood House our equivalent is the best bedchamber on the first floor which is a very fancy guest bedroom meant to showcase the best bed hangings and use as a space for entertainment, not sleeping for the family.

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State Bedroom at Chatsworth House

Best Bedchamber

Best Bedchamber at Hammond-Harwood House

The castles were remarkable and more relevant than I had originally anticipated, however, I was pleased when we went to the Palladian inspired homes which were similar to Hammond-Harwood House.

Uppark House burned in August of 1989, however, the vast majority of the contents of the home were saved by the National Trust staff, visitors, and local firemen. The Trust then had to make the difficult choice to rebuild, or to leave as a ruin as seen with sites like Cowdray. They choose to rebuild and restore it to the day before the fire, given they had plans and photographs of the interior. This meant an enormous amount of painstaking time and research.

Uppark fire

Uppark fire

Today the house looks as if nothing happened, save a few scorch marks and various areas.

Uppark full view

Uppark House in 2019

It is an incredible testament to modern day craftsmanship and as my professor Tessa Wild stated, “Everyone thinks that this type of skills are dead, it just not true. Give people the time and the money and you can discover the craftsmanship is still alive and well. Uppark is a testament to that.” Here at the Hammond-Harwood House we are having an extensive window restoration project done and we are using skilled craftsman who are painstakingly conserving the window frame and glass giving the craftsman the time and the money to do their magic.

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Window project at Hammond-Harwood House 2019. Photo courtesy of Bill Doherty.

Another Palladian inspired home I saw at Attingham is Keddleston Hall. Keddleston is one of the earliest and greatest works of Scottish born architect Robert Adam, who worked in the Palladian style. Adams had spent a great deal of time in Italy and was friends with Giovanni Piranesi from the Veneto. Piranesi rose to fame making detailed drawings of classical antiquity.

The north front of Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire.

The north front of Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire.

In 1760 Adams began working on a home for Nathaniel Curzon, 1st Baron of Scarsdale, taking over from architect Mathew Brettingham who had made the initial plan, which was based on Palladio’s Villa Mocenigo. Hammond-Harwood House is the only known house in colonial America which can claim to be inspired by a plate in Palladio’s Four Books of Architecture, the Villa Pisani.

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Villa Pisani from Andrea Palladio’s Four Books of Architecture.

British country houses became a center of learning for young and upcoming architects like Peter Harrison, who studied with an unknown British Lord and then brought Palladianism to America with his Redwood Athenaeum in 1750 in Newport Rhode Island.

Clearly William Buckland was well aware of the Palladian style and current architecture ideas. When he died in 1774 during the construction of the Hammond-Harwood House property he had one of the largest architectural libraries in the American colonies with 14 books, which could only be rivaled with collections like those of Thomas Jefferson.

The brilliance of William Buckland lies in his ability to take a country house structure and recreate it in an urban setting with limited acreage. It shows Buckland’s understanding of a Palladian villa and his genius in miniaturizing and transforming it for 18th century colonial Maryland.

Top of HHH

Gardens

In designing this property it is only natural that one would question the layout for the extensive land behind the home that Hammond bought with the property. The garden was originally made up four city lots, it was described in a 1789 deed as Hammond’s Square. Hammond had purchased the four lots between 1772 and 74 with the intention of building the property. It was bounded by King George Street, Price George Street, and the boundary of the Paca property. Where the house is situated was probably the only unobstructed view of the harbor. There is a large spring which feeds into the pond at the Paca garden and empties into the city dock area. The spring bisected the property so the only suitable location for the property would have been where you see the home today.

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While Buckland died before this property was finished he may have made a few suggestions about the grounds. In England he would have seen great country houses and the introduction of landscape gardening. One gardener in particular was gaining incredible fame during the 1750’s whilst Buckland was studying in London. Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown was born of humble origins but worked at a few country houses as gardener before coming to Stowe House in Cambridgeshire in 1741, where he worked under William Kent (1685–1748) to who introduced the new naturalistic English garden style. Kent  was an architect, painter and furniture designer. He lived in the Veneto from 1709 to 1719 and then brought the Palladian style back to England. His landscapes were created to correspond with the architecture of Palladian homes.

This naturalistic English style of garden replaced the more formal jardin a la francaise with strict geometric lines. The English garden presented an idealized view of nature with lakes, rolling hills, livestock, and recreation of classical temples.

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Landscape at Stowe House

Brown worked at Stowe House then became a consultant landscape gardener and designed over 170 properties around England. Brown got nickname because he often told his clients that their grounds had great “capabilities”. He was an excellent and persuasive salesman.

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Lancelot Brown

Traditional architects also got into this new style of gardening, designing outbuildings to fit the classical tastes of these naturalistic gardens. For example Batty Langley’s 1735 renovations to the Bowling Green at Wrest Park and Brown’s son in law, Henry Holland’s Chinese dairy at Woburn.  Architect James Gibbs played a huge influence in the life our architect William Buckland. Buckland witnessed Gibbs Radcliffe camera being built during his youth in Oxford and saw several of his buildings while studying joinery in London. Gibbs influence on Buckland is evident through the Gibbs surround window, Buckland placed on the stairway at Hammond-Harwood House similar to the one’s Gibbs used on St. Martin’s in the field in London.

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Bowling Green at Wrest Park

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Chinese Dairy at Woburn Abbey

 

The four acres from the Hammond-Harwood house down to the Paca gardens were originally a gentle slope we believe it was then filled in to have series of terraces or “falls”. Similar falls can still be seen at the Paca gardens today, which is a recreated garden of what originally existed on the property. Visitors coming to Annapolis just before the American Revolution described a brick mansion that dominated the town as being set in a spacious lawn that featured trees and shrubs. No formal pattern was noted. It is therefore apparent that the “English style” of a more naturalistic garden had taken hold in Annapolis. The lots closer to Prince George Street we believe had some outbuildings, a pasture, and an orchard. Hammond never lived on the property nor did his nephews who inherited the property so it’s’ hard to say what kind of garden existed at this time or if Buckland any gave any advice, though he would have had knowledge of Gibbs and Brown’s work.

Collections

The beauty of these country houses is not only the grounds or architecture but the material culture they hold. Often the same family has lived in the home for hundreds of years building on the collection. The vast majority of the homes I visited did have a family still living on the property. During our trip we visited a few private homes for meals and viewed their collections.

Winkburn dinner

Dinner at Winkburn, a private home, that still holds the family collection.

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Long gallery at Broughton Castle in Oxfordshire, still a private home now open to the public on certain days, that holds family treasures.

Although no one lives at the Hammond-Harwood, we are fortunate to have the contents of collections to be about 30% original, this is due to dedicated volunteer and staff members who acquired objects back after the 1925 auction which was held upon Hester Harwood’s death. One of our most important collections is 17 works by the Peale family. Charles Willson Peale, patriarch of the Peale family of painters, lived in Annapolis from his youth into his mid 20’s. The wealthy elite of Annapolis recognized his artistic talent and sent him to London and study under Benjamin West. In London Peale was exposed to the great European masters and came back with a style heavily influenced by British portrait and genre painters. During my course I came across a painting that struck me as a Peale connection.

At Keddleston the 1st Baron of Scarsdale, Nathaniel Curzon (1726-1804) is depicted with his wife Caroline Colyear, Lady Scarsdale by Nathaniel Hone is 1761. The couple appears relaxed and at ease with their surroundings in the garden. Curzon inherited a grand estate in Derbyshire and wanted to outdo any of his neighbors including the Cavendish family of Chatsworth, so in 1759 he commissioned Robert Adams to build him a lavish Palladian Villa called Keddleston. The beauty of Keddleston is found not only in its symmetrical lines or classical references but in the vision and execution of one man’s ideal home. Curzon had the money and time to create his perfect home. Unlike other country houses the estate has not been altered by later generations. According to Dr. John Chu of the National Trust this painting style was new and unusual for that time period. However the style is  something you see in Peale paintings.  For example, Peale’s 1788 painting of Benjamin and Eleanor Ridgely Laming of Baltimore, which portrays the couple relaxing outside in their garden as if you had just encountered them. The connection could be explained as Peale saw Hone’s work in London. Hone was one of the founders of the Royal Academy of Art in 1768 along with Peale’s teacher Benjamin West.

Baron and Lady Scarsdale, Curzon

1st Baron of Scarsdale, Nathaniel Curzon (1726-1804) is depicted with his wife Caroline Colyear, Lady Scarsdale by Nathaniel Hone is 1761. Keddleston Hall, National Trust.

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Benjamin and Eleanor Ridgely Laming by Charles Willson Peale c. 1788. National Portrait Gallery, Washington D.C.

The last painting I will mention is that of Margaret Frances Townley Chase attributed to the school of Sir Godfrey Knellor. Born the daughter of Lord Townley in London, she was given a life of luxury raised by her maternal grandfather and her step grandmother. She fell in love with a middle-class reverend, Richard Chase, and moved to Maryland, essentially leaving her fortune up to fate, as it was then governed by her step uncle. This painting done before her marriage in the 1720’s shows several attributes. In the background is a dolphin, a Christian symbol, as dolphins would save sailors at sea. The dolphin is a symbol found throughout the British country house on the decorative arts. The dog in her lap is a King Charles Spaniel which only friends of the king could own. Dogs are meant to represent two things for a woman fertility and loyalty. Currently at Chatsworth House there is an exhibition depicting 197 paintings and sculptures of dogs and I was pleased to make the connection to Margaret’s portrait.

Margaret Frances Tonwley Chase daughter of Lord Townley by Sir Godfrey Knellor, 1725. Photo Hammond-Harwood House

Margaret Frances Tonwley Chase daughter of Lord Townley by Sir Godfrey Knellor, c. 1725.

Margaret was a heraldic heiress, meaning that her male line had died out and she could inherit her father’s coat of arms. Only Margaret’s direct descendants had claim to her coat of arms. However, her nephew by marriage Samuel Chase, signer of the American Declaration of Independence, used her arms a number of times on silver urns and Chinese porcelain. Americans did not adhere to strict British heraldry rules and would often steal or invent a coat of arms.

Fig. 2 Townley-Chase Urn in the Ballroom of the Hammond-Harwood House

Chase urn with Townley coat of arms c. 1770

At Parham House in Sussex I saw a lantern clock which closely resembled one we have here in the collection. This clock was created by Henri Chapel. I am working to find the maker but it could quite possibly be Chapel, same as the clock at Parham. I have been in correspondence with a gentleman who runs the clock tour at Parham about this research.

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Lantern CLock at Parham House

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Lantern Clock at Hammond-Harwood House

This course for me was all about making connections between English and American architecture and collections. Despite the scale of the houses the course taught me the narrative of these transatlantic great houses is similar. It is a story about people trying to advance themselves through architecture like Matthias Hammond, building collections over generations like the Chase and Loockerman families, and struggling to hold on to these large homes despite the financial strain like the Harwood’s. It was a truly life changing experience and I will continue on what my Attingham professor David Adshead called the journey of “Elegant curiosity”.

Boughton

Group photo at Boughton House

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Finding Richard Loockerman in Denton, Caroline County, Eastern Shore of Maryland

Pictures above: Image 1. House at the site of Richard “Dickey”Loockerman’s plantation Bennett’s Toulson in Denton, Maryland. Image 2. Landing near Bennett’s Toulson. Image 3. Richard Loockerman c. 1803 by Robert Field (1769-1819).

Recently our director Barbara Goyette and curator Rachel Lovett had the opportunity to visit Denton in Caroline County on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. They spent the day two members of the Caroline County Historical Society J.O.K Walsh and Patricia Guida. They toured the Museum of Rural Life in Downtown Denton, soaked in the local culture having lunch at a local pub, and did a driving tour of Richard’s former plantation and neighborhood. They were in pursuit of the details surrounding the life of one of our former inhabitants Richard Loockerman who is one of our most provocative and mysterious characters.

Caroline County has the honor of being the oldest continuous community that has their main economy based in commercial agriculture. The area is made up with large farms, these days mostly poultry farms.

Richard “Dickey” was born in 1783 the only child of his father Richard Loockerman Sr. who owned the plantation Bennett’s Toulson in modern day Denton.  The property, was originally owned by Dickey’s grandfather John Loockerman Jr., who had divided his original 930 acres between his two sons Jacob and Dickey’s father Richard Sr.

Richard Sr. was a veteran of the revolutionary war and married twice, but Dickey was his only child. Unfortunately, Richard Sr. died in 1792 at age 42, when Dickey was just nine years old. It is unclear if Dickey’s mother was his father’s second wife Ann or a woman by the name Mary “Polly” Markland who may have been a common law spouse, as payments were made to her from the estate of Richard Loockerman Sr. for a dozen years after his death.  Illegitimate but acknowledged children were not uncommon in this period, like Benedict Swingate Calvert son of Charles Calvert, Fifth Lord Baltimore or the wealthy Charles Carroll of Carrolton, Signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Upon his father’s death Dickey became a guardian of his uncle Jacob who owned the southern half of Bennett’s Toulson. In his father’s will his instructions were ” I request that my brother Jacob will be mindful that my son Richard shall be liberally educated that he may be qualified for and made to apply to some genteel business.”

Uncle Jacob then rented out the land and some of the enslaved population while raising Dickey, and produced an annual income of 150 pounds, which for the time was a good sum. Jacob oversaw Dickey’s education diligently. There are charges made for silk and cashmere to outfit Dickey. He was sent to boarding school in Easton and Chestertown before coming to Annapolis in March of 1800 to attend St. John’s College. He graduated in 1802 and during his time in Annapolis society met Frances “Fanny” Chase, the beautiful eldest daughter of Judge Jeremiah Townley Chase and his wife Hester.

The couple married October 1st, 1803. Silversmith William Faris, recorded the event in his diary saying “Saturday October 1 a fine day. this evening Jeremiah Chace’s daughter Miss Faney Chace is to be married to Mr. Richard Lockerman, of the Eastern Shore.”

Upon their marriage their miniatures were painted by English born artist Robert Field (1769-1819) who was then living in Annapolis. Dickey and Fanny began spending time at Bennett’s Toulson in Caroline County during the early years of their marriage, along with Fanny’s younger sister Matilda, and her father Judge Chase. The relationship between Dickey and his father in law Judge Chase appears to be quite strained. Dickey took out loans from his father in law in 1808 and 1810 and was able repay a portion back in 1816 but not the full amount. Dickey mortgaged part of Bennett’s Toulson and another property in southern Caroline County on the Choptank river to his father in law. Jefferson’s embargo during the War of 1812 may be have been a contributing cause to Dickey’s financial woes.

Judge Chase became alarmed the young couple were spending so much time away from Annapolis and in order to attract them back  he purchased a large home with four acres nearby to his home on King George Street in 1811. The house was originally built in 1774 by architect William Buckland for Matthias Hammond, who actually never lived on the property. It would have been customary for Judge Chase to give the house to Dickey, as his daughter Frances, as a woman, could not hold property. Chase never gave the house to Richard and made it clear it was for Fanny’s sole use, though Richard could live on the property with his family. Fanny and Dickey had a total of ten children, seven of whom survived to adulthood, only one daughter, Hester, married and had children.  For Fanny and Dickey their seven children were a constant source of anxiety for the couple, with fatal accidents and bouts of mental illness. Their eldest daughter Hester married William Harwood, and it was their children who were the last private owners of the Hammond-Harwood House until 1924.

During the War of 1812 Dickey served in the militia in both Caroline County and Anne Arundel, serving a total of 81 days. It is likely he was at the Battle of Bladensburg on August 24, 1814 which was a great loss to the Americans and resulted in the burning of Washington D.C. He was not at the bombardment of Fort McHenry when the Star Spangled banner was written, but he was actively serving in the militia during this time.

In December of 1817 he was elected State Auditor of Maryland  but by 1819 there were issues, and he was suing the state for back wages.

Dickey’s main livelihood was his plantation, Bennett’s Tolson, where wheat, corn, tobacco grew in addition to having cows, hogs, sheep, and turkeys. Dickey was in a favorable neighborhood and would have associated with the Daffin’s of nearby Daffin House, an architecturally significant property, that hosted president Andrew Jackson in 1806.

Despite his prospects Dickety was thrown into immense economic struggle in the early 19th century between the war of 1812 and the panic of 1819. It was not the genteel life his father had envisioned for him.

Dickey’s father had been an active Methodist and had instituted a gradual emancipation for the eighteen enslaved people mentioned in his will. The last enslaved person to be granted freedom at Bennett’s Toulson was in 1816. During the late 18th century emancipation became a popular idea in religious communities including the Quakers, Methodists, and Episcopalians.  It is unclear what labor Dickey used on the plantation but most likely it was a mix of free and enslaved African American’s. The mother in law of Frederick Douglass, Mary Murrary, was born on this property and granted her freedom around 1813, so that her daughter Anna born in 1813 was freeborn. Anna Murray Douglass was a very talented and resourceful woman who married Frederick Douglass in 1838, and was a great source of inspiration for him. In modern day Denton on Tuckahoe Road just above the former Loockerman property there is an African American community.

Dickey Loockerman’s difficult finances affected his not only his immediate family but also the enslaved population he owned. In 1821 he mortgaged his enslaved women Juliet to a merchant tailor, Nicholas Watkins, for a year so that he could pay a debt. Watkins owned a tailor’s shop on Conduit Street in Annapolis. Juliet may have cooked, cleaned, or been trained in sewing. After the year had passed Richard refused to pay the remaining debt, however, Juliet was able to return.

Dickey divided his time between his plantation and the city house in Annapolis. In 1827 Judge Chase foreclosed on his son in law’s back payments. He was given one month to sell his eastern shore properties. The court appointed Dickey’s first cousin, Theodore Loockerman, a local lawyer, and the son of his Uncle Jacob. However, Theodore wrote,
“being closely related to one of the parties in the transaction, I feel compelled by delicacy to decline the trust.” The matter seemed to go on for years and it was still proceeding in November of 1834 when Dickey unexpectedly passed away at Bennett’s Toulson.

There are two letters (see below) that tell a very different story about the death of Dickey Loockerman. I leave it up to you to decide what fate befell Dickey.

The first is from Dickey’s cousin Theodore to Fanny Loockerman here in Annapolis:

“Procured an excellent nurse by the name of Hicks, who remained until the last moment. Every attention was rendered that could be. The room, the bed etc. were very comfortable. As far as I could ascertain his mind was calm and collected to the last. And although I was not informed of his expressing any particular wish in regard to his family he spoke frequently generally of them and expressed his desire to see them.” December 2 1834

The second letter is dated the same day December 2 1834 is written by a family friend, Mrs. Trippe to her son in New York:

“What won’t the love of strong drink do_ he came over to Caroline on business, got in a drunken frolic (sic) and continued so about 3 weeks, was taken ill among the black people, who lived on his farm and actually breathed his last in a black man’s house, thus my dear, has closed the temporary career of one of the handsomest, most sensible and well informed men of our age”

Charming, smart, attractive yet flawed the life of Dickey Loockerman is still somewhat of a mystery to us here at Hammond-Harwood House, but this trip gave a greater context into the world he lived in and the economic struggles he faced in early 19th century Maryland.

 

 

 

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Off to Attingham!

Excited to say I got selected for Attingham and I will be in England this July for the course thanks to a generous scholarship from Lillian Hirschmann. Attingham is an 18-day residential course directed by David Adshead and Tessa Wild, will visit country houses in Sussex, Oxfordshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Cambridgeshire. From WEST DEAN, the Programme will include, amongst other houses and gardens: the complex overlays of ARUNDEL CASTLE, the ancestral seat of the Dukes of Norfolk; PETWORTH HOUSE, where the patronage of great British artists such as Turner and Flaxman enrich its Baroque interiors; UPPARK, a Grand Tour house; STANDEN, an Arts and Crafts reinterpretation of the country house and BROUGHTON CASTLE, a moated and fortified manor house.
In the Midlands a series of related houses will be examined: HARDWICK HALL, unique amongst Elizabethan houses for its survival of late 16th century decoration and contents; BOLSOVER CASTLE, a Jacobean masque setting frozen in stone; and CHATSWORTH, where the collections and gardens of the Dukes of Devonshire span more than four centuries. Other highlights include CALKE ABBEY, with its left ‘as found’ interiors, and the crisp neo-Classical KEDLESTON HALL.
The final part of the course will explore the great estates and collections of Bedfordshire and its neighbouring counties: AUDLEY END, the palatial Jacobean house of the Earls of Suffolk, later remodelled by Robert Adam; the complex landscape gardens of STOWE; the rich Palladian interiors and collections of WOBURN ABBEY, the seat of the Dukes of Bedford; and WIMPOLE HALL, with its Baroque chapel and library designed by James Gibbs for the bibliophile 2nd Earl of Oxford.

I am most excited to meet museum professionals around the globe and learn more about our Anglo connections. On August 22, 2019 at noon I will be presenting a lecture “Hammond-Harwood House and the Great British Country House”. This program is free and open to the public due to the generosity of Cathleen H. Farr. A small British style tea reception will follow.

-Rachel Lovett, Curator & Assistant Director, Hammond-Harwood House Museum

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Game Room Curtains

The Hammond-Harwood House Museum is updating the window treatments in the Game Room. With a generous donation from the Barry Walsh Memorial Fund, started by Hammond-Harwood House docent Frances Newton Harwood, this project can be accomplished. Extensive research of the variety of late 18th and early 19th century window curtains revealed some alternative options of which styles could belong in the Game Room. In addition to some background on what type of research has been conducted, there are two suggestions of early 19th century window treatments for the Game Room. Which style would you most like to see?

Window curtains came in a variety of drapery styles between the late 18th and early 19th centuries. These styles included venetian curtains, venetian blinds, festoon curtains, and spring blinds, and were hung on either Gothic or French rods. The arrangement of the drapery was dependent on the advice of a professional upholsterer as well as the personal flair of the dweller. Developments in technology also played a role in the styles of curtains over the decades. However, the purpose of the room wherein curtains were to be hung and the expense and fashionableness of textiles available was not to be underestimated as being influential in determining the style of curtain chosen. Sources for research included textual documentation, visual art, and surviving original window curtains to consider what styles of curtains would be appropriate to the interpretation of the Game Room at the Hammond-Harwood House. The decades most prominent in the research were the 1800s-1820s because this is the era of the interpretation of the house. However, that research is contextualized by accounts from the 1760s-1790s, which provided a relevant background to the curtain styles popular in the early 19th century.

Advice from George Smith and Rudolph Ackermann, both prominent publishers in the early 19th century, for interior designers and from images of rooms with curtains, shows that it is natural to expect suggestions for correct arrangements of window curtains. The combination of the three types of sources – textual documentation, visual art, and surviving original window curtains – provides a more distinct result of which curtains would be most appropriate for the Game Room at the Hammond-Harwood House. Ackermann’s Repository of Arts boasts of numerous illustrations of drapery from the early 19th century, which provide fruitful interpretations of many of the styles of curtains fashionable for the time, including a range of textiles suitable for certain rooms. Regarding surviving curtains, the fineness of sewing is occasionally visible but they also offer a more accurate drape of the textile than drawings can depict. French rods became very popular at the end of the 18th century when they were invented and later caused other curtain styles to go out of fashion within the first few decades of the 19th century. Given their popularity at that time, they would be a viable option for the Game Room and would be a good means of suspension for dimity or other light weight cottons. Similarly, venetian blinds are exceedingly convenient and moderate light well. Given a pair of paintings depicting domestic settings with venetian blinds, the Game Room as a small sitting room or parlor is a reasonable environment for such a window treatment instead of cotton curtains on a French rod.

To Let, James Collinson, ca. 1855-1860

~ Collinson, James. To Let. ca. 1855-1860. Philadelphia Museum of Art, http://www.philamuseum.org/collections/permanent/82721.html. Accessed 12 Jan 2019.

 

Game Room

Game Room with previous curtains

Style 1) French rod curtains and valence

These curtains are made of a pale green cotton blend cloth. The valence is made from the same cloth as the curtains but is trimmed with a narrow strip of dark green velvet and finished in gold fringe. The fringe and the velvet act as a pleasing accent to this more conservative curtain style. While the valence is secured to a frame above the window, the curtains themselves hang from a French rod by brass rings fastened to the curtain by strips of cotton tape. The brass rings are controlled by two cords which hang to the right of the window. Gold silky tassels are tied to the ends of those cords. By pulling on one tassel or the other, the curtains are drawn open or closed along the French rod. The French rod is of great convenience, but the valence is not just decorative. Its purpose is to conceal the mechanism by which the curtain operates. It thereby enhances the indoor view of the window.

The French rod gained popularity at the end of the 18th century and was used well into the 19th century. By pulling the entire curtain to the side of the window, there was no concern of neatly arranging the fullness of the cloth over ornate curtain knobs. Rather, a greater symmetry was achieved by the balance of the French rod. Additionally, although there was more freedom of movement for the curtains on a French rod, the function of the curtain could easily be maintained, not only for protecting a room from sunlight and for privacy in more urban homes but also to block drafts when they seep through the windows, as emphasized in the section “Ordinances of the Bedchamber” from At Day’s Close by A. Roger Ekirch.

Natalie scanned textiles draft

Style 2) Venetian blinds and swag

These blinds are made of natural wooden slats and hung together with fine cords. The front of the blinds is accented by golden jacquard tape. The swag, like a valence over the window, is made of a pale green cotton blend cloth and is trimmed in gold fringe. This swag is draped over wooden finials which are secured at either end of the frame above the window. The blinds themselves hang from this frame and are controlled by cords which loop through pulleys concealed within the frame. These cords hang to both the right and the left of the window. The cords to the right, which end in gold silky tassels, pull the blinds up and out of view or let the blinds down to cover the glass, while the cord to the left, which is merely looped through a wooden channel, open and close the slats of the blinds. When the blinds are down, the cords to the right can hang loose, but when the blinds are up, they are secured around a wooden curtain knob to prevent them from sliding down. The venetian blinds are highly versatile and cater well to needs pertaining to sunlight allowances and privacy.

Venetian blinds were not as grand as silk damask window treatments; however, that did not preclude their use, especially in smaller, less formal settings. Also, when lighting in rooms was controlled so carefully, nothing was more suitable than venetian blinds. Susanna Whatman wrote in her book on housekeeping from 1776 that many duties of the house maid consisted of attention to window treatments, whether for keeping them clean or managing them as the sunlight shifted across a room. “Venetian blinds. When let down to pull the longest string to turn or close them quite. Otherwise the sun will come through the laths.” (Housekeeping, pg. 38)

Natalie scanned textiles draft 1

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The False Plate: Our Connection to the 1600’s

By Executive Director Carter Lively

It’s hard to explain why our roofs and their underlying structures have presented us with so many challenges. The answer lies not at the time of construction in the 1770’s, but before that when the colonists in Maryland and Virginia were trying to build their first houses in the 1600’s.

Imagine the lush 17th century wilderness with lots of trees ready to be cut down for your house. You know how to cut trees down; it’s what follows that’s the challenge. You remember what houses in your village in England looked like and how they were built. So what do you do next?

One of the first things you realize is that you have to build your house quickly – unless you like sleeping in the rain or shivering in the snow. You also know that feeding your family depends on successfully growing and harvesting a crop of tobacco and that this takes up most of your time. Therefore you have to build your house in the short time you have before winter, plus you have to be very mindful not to let your construction interfere with the cultivating, harvesting, and selling of your tobacco.

So do you try to copy the English houses you remember? It sounds logical, but it isn’t for one huge reason. There are not enough skilled carpenters or masons in the Chesapeake region to build an English house.

The reason you need a carpenter is because they know how to cut down trees, shape them, and join the timber together by a rather complicated system. These trees are now beams, posts, and rafters, and they will make up the skeletal structure of your English house. You also have to put this structure on a foundation of stones or bricks so it won’t rot or get eaten by termites.

You might be able to cut down the trees and shape them after a hard day’s work picking off tobacco hornworms, but the one thing you probably can’t do is create the complicated joints needed to hold together the big timbers. This is the work of skilled carpenters and they are practically non-existent in the wilds of the Chesapeake frontier. So what do you do?

What you do is build what your neighbors have built, which is commonly known as a Virginia house. So what is a Virginia house?

The Virginia house is a small one-room house which is built of relatively small posts (verticals) and small beams (horizontals) with a roof of small rafters (diagonals) and covered with small pieces of wood called clapboards. How is this Virginia house different from an English house?

The answer is that a Virginia house is puny, insubstantial, and is going to rot quicker than the standard 17th century English house. So why would anyone want to build a house like this?

The answer is that it’s quick to build, it’s not going to take you away from your precious tobacco crop, and the small posts, beams, and rafters can be nailed or pegged together without the need of a carpenter. It is also very much cheaper to build than a proper English house which means the money you save can be used to buy that prime tobacco-growing property next door. So what does this have to do with the Hammond-Harwood House roof which was built roughly 200 years later?

This also takes some explanation, so bear with me a little longer. The Virginia house was built by sticking posts directly into the dirt and then by putting a beam across the tops of the posts. This beam is called a plate and this is what the roof is attached to. The walls are held together at the top by horizontal beams called cross ties if they are big or joists if they are small. These keep the long parallel walls from falling inward or outward and create the base of the strong triangle that the roof covering rests on. Now we are getting to the crux of the matter!

In building the English house large posts, large plates, large cross ties and joists, and large rafters are held together with complex joints which in the 17th century were almost solely the work of a carpenter. In the Virginia house the rafters are not nailed directly onto the plates; the cross ties and joists go over the plates and stick out to create an eave on both sides of the house. The tops of these cross ties and joists that stick out provide the Virginia house builder with a place onto which a smaller flat plank – not a big beam – can be nailed to create a flat surface onto which you can nail the ends of the rafters. This means that you can use smaller (common) rafters rather than the much larger (principal) rafters used in the proper English house.

Essentially the difference between the English house and the Virginia house is – aside from the size of the wooden parts and the clapboard covering – the way the bottoms of the rafters connect to the walls of the house. The Virginia house system uses a flat timber plank which is laid on the tops of the joists that are sticking out from the tops of the walls. This new flat plate is called a false plate and is distinct to the architecture of the colonial Chesapeake.

So how does this relate to the Hammond-Harwood House’s roof? The answer is that the false plate becomes an integral part of colonial building in the Chesapeake region and continues to be used even when buildings become very complex and more like contemporaneous buildings in England. It reminds me of the coccyx bone in the human body because it’s a vestige of a skeletal past that remains even after its usefulness is gone.

Now in our case we have brick walls and a light (common) roof structure sitting on top of them. If this house had been built in London in 1774 it would have a principal roof of stout wooden parts with sturdy rafters which would connect directly to robust horizontal plates, but it wasn’t built in London, it was built here in Annapolis and it was built with a slight yellow pine roof structure with a false plate. The Hammond-Harwood House has stout 6 x 8 plates and puny 3 x 3 3/4” rafters that are nailed directly into a 1 1/4” x 9 3/8” false plate which is nailed to short stubby outriggers which are in turn dovetailed into the plates. This, combined with the substitution of outriggers for cross ties, has caused the majority of challenges that we have had to deal with in the wings of the Hammond-Harwood House.

What has happened in our case is that the weight of the roofs – wood, metal and slate – has caused the rafters to push down on the false plate, which in turn has lowered at its outer extremity causing the stout plates to rotate outward and causing the lower points of the rafters to rise away from the false plate and expose their nails.

Our challenge has been to take the weight off the roof structure, so that the plate will not roll outwards and make the tip of the rafter come up and away from the outrigger. This situation occurs because our vestige of the Virginia House – the false plate – has been applied where another form of roof to wall connection would have been a better choice.

A gap is visible where the false plate has separated from the outrigger.

The roof structure of the Hammond-Harwood House, with a visible gap where the false plate has separated from the outrigger

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Caring for Your Collections

It seems like everyone collects something – heirloom furniture, baseball cards, vintage purses… Sometimes it’s a purposeful process and sometimes you look around the house and realize that your possessions seem to have multiplied. At least, I do. Whether the collection is intentional or accidental, the outcome is usually the same: you have objects you care about, and you want to take good care of them. If this sounds familiar, I have good news for you – this year and next, the Hammond-Harwood House and City of Bowie Museums will be presenting new sessions of our Collector’s Corner workshop series.

Each workshop will cover the care of a different type of material; sessions on photographs, ceramics, glass, fine art, and paper and ephemera are all on the schedule.  We invite museum staff members and volunteers as well as anyone with their own collection to take advantage of this no-cost opportunity to learn modern, museum-sanctioned techniques for caring for their collections. More information and the workshop schedule are available on the Hammond-Harwood House website.

One of the many collections of glass owned by Henry Sleeper on display at Beauport, Sleeper-McCann House in Massachusetts

One of the many collections of glass owned by Henry Sleeper on display at Beauport, Sleeper-McCann House in Massachusetts

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These Will Keep Indefinitely

By Office Manager Jeanne Langdon

I was looking through the old Maryland’s Way cookbook to find something to bake, to help advertise the soon to be released 50th anniversary edition of the cookbook, when a sentence in one cookie recipe caught my eye: “These will keep indefinitely.” I thought of Patrick.

Patrick is a young Brit I met on a flight from Paris to Iceland last April. He was on his way to San Diego to begin a five-month hike along the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada. The PCT is the West Coast version of the Appalachian Trail, only the trail is longer, the mountains are bigger, and the gaps between sightings of civilization are much larger. I have hiked portions of the Appalachian Trail, and I have known a couple of Georgia to Maine through-hikers, so I know how challenging that “easier” trail can be. The Pacific Crest Trail winds among some of the highest peaks in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and right past the place where the Donner Party met its fate. During the flight, Patrick explained about his preparations for hiking the trail: mailing boxes of provisions to himself at various post offices along the trail, and how he would be hiking “bonus miles” into town to retrieve them, and planning how much water he would have to carry for each segment of the trail and where it would be available. He told me about “trail angels,” volunteers who hike in to resupply water caches or bring hot meals to the places where hikers are likely to be camping. And finally, he gave me the web address of the blog that he would be writing along the way: pjgspct.blogspot.com

I have been following his blog since April, vicariously hiking the PCT. He has made it past the halfway point and is now in the Cascade Mountains in northern California. In late June, I made a batch of oatmeal cranberry cookies and put them in the mail so that I could be a trail angel, too. Oatmeal cranberry was the most popular of the cookies I sent to my husband’s coworkers in Afghanistan (“Open the box, John. We know what’s in the box.”). But getting cookies to a war zone was easy: I would put them in a special military shipping box on Monday and John would have them by Friday. This was different; I had to calculate how long a box would take getting to a remote town in California, correlate that with where Patrick said he was in his blog, and send it far enough ahead that he wouldn’t have passed by before the box arrived. Unfortunately, I miscalculated and sent them too far ahead, so the cookies were three weeks old when he caught up with them. Patrick didn’t complain though; he ate them all the same day.

Then I found the recipe in Maryland’s Way for Whiskey Nut Cookies, the one that said “these will keep indefinitely.” As the name implies, this simple shortbread cookie is made from ground pecans, with a healthy dose of whiskey (good Maryland Rye). I deviated from the recipe by refrigerating the dough overnight before rolling it out. The recipe calls for rolling the dough out “thin,” but since this is a shortbread cookie that doesn’t rise, I rolled it out to a little more than a quarter inch. The result was a rich, crumbly cookie with a distinct pecan flavor.

Now for the test. Will these cookies survive the trip to California and the wait at the post office? According to the author of the recipe, Augusta Tucker Townsend of Pendennis Mount, Severn River, these will keep indefinitely. The gauntlet has been thrown down…

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