Friday Photo: Simple Ceilings

Courtesy of Jeffrey E. Klee, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

This is not a simple ceiling. It’s also not at the Hammond-Harwood House. This is one of the ceilings in the Chase-Lloyd House, our neighbor across the street. The interiors of the Chase-Lloyd House were designed and executed by William Buckland, who was also the architect of the Hammond-Harwood House. We don’t have any ceilings like this, only simple, undecorated ones, and I think someone in the past must have been a little jealous. One of the enduring myths at HHH is that William Buckland designed an elaborate ceiling for our stairhall but that he died before it could be constructed, and that the plans for it were then included in the list of items advertised in the Maryland Gazette by Buckland’s wife Mary as being available for purchase.

The truth is that this story unfairly maligns Mary Buckland. There are two advertisements in the Gazette for sales of items belonging to William Buckland, but no ceiling plans are mentioned. On December 15, 1774, Mary and the other two executors of the estate, John Randall and Denton Jacques, placed an advertisement announcing the sale on the following Tuesday of “a parcel of household furniture,” six indentured servants, and two slaves. On May 9, 1775, Jacques advertised the sale of Buckland’s house and “the remaining part of the deceased’s household furniture.” As you can see, there is no mention of a ceiling. The only place anything about a ceiling pops up is in the inventory of Buckland’s estate, which includes 2 “ornamented ceilings of paper.” It’s possible but unlikely that one of those paper ceilings was destined for the Hammond-Harwood House, since papers were not installed anywhere else in the home. So, I think we’ll just have to get used to envying our neighbor’s ceiling.

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