Category Archives: Architecture

The Other Hammond House

By Educational Program Coordinator Tara Owens

Occasionally, the Hammond-Harwood House becomes confused with another Hammond house in Maryland, the Benson-Hammond House. It is easy to see why this happens, as both have hyphenated names containing the surname Hammond. However, these are two distinct houses in different locations that happen to be linked together by a name.

The Hammond-Harwood House was constructed for Matthias Hammond (1748-1786), a wealthy landowner who owned several tobacco plantations and served in the Maryland legislature. In 1774, Matthias hired joiner and architect William Buckland to erect an Anglo-Palladian brick mansion in downtown Annapolis. Buckland embraced classical design elements reminiscent of ancient Greece and Rome, which can be seen in details throughout the house. The pediment with its denticular molding and the front door encased with Ionic columns harken back to the great buildings of that classical era. The House consists of a five-part main block with wings on either side connected by hyphens, and its design has remained unaltered since its original construction. The Hammond-Harwood House was designed to be a place that made left an impression, a place that symbolized the wealth and status of its owner.

The Benson-Hammond House in Linthicum, Maryland

The Benson-Hammond House in Linthicum, Maryland

The Benson-Hammond House, on the other hand, is a simpler home. Located in Linthicum Heights, Maryland, not far from the Baltimore-Washington International Airport, it is a 19th-century farmhouse. Between 1809 and 1815 Thomas Benson acquired three tracts of land and, according to family tradition, constructed a log cabin. Eventually, circa 1820 or 1830, the Bensons built a two-story brick farmhouse. Sometime after the Civil War, the house was lengthened and a half-story was added. This addition was done in the architectural style known as Greek Revival. By 1854, Thomas had conveyed ownership of the house and land to his son Joseph. Joseph died in 1882 and indicated in his will that the house should be sold. In 1887, John T. and Rezin H. Hammond purchased the house for $13,600.

So, how exactly is Matthias Hammond connected to John T. and Rezin H. Hammond? Well, that is a great question, and one that took some digging into genealogical records to answer. Bear with me as I try my best to connect the dots with as little confusion as possible. Rezin Howard Hammond is Matthias Hammond’s great-great-great nephew. Matthias had a brother named Rezin, who had a son named Andrew, who had a son named Rezin, who had a son named John Thomas, who is the father of Rezin Howard Hammond and the “John T.” referred to in the previous paragraph. So, the two Hammond houses are connected, but not as directly as confused visitors often think.

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18th Century House, 21st Century Museum

The Hammond-Harwood House is lucky enough to have interns and volunteers who use their unique skills and talents to accomplish projects that add immeasurably to the experiences we are able to offer to the general public. One current example is summer intern Jeran Halfpap, a rising senior at St. Mary’s College, who created a 3-dimensional digital model of the Hammond-Harwood House that is now available for viewing on our website. Below, Jeran talks a bit about the technology that allowed him to create the model.

By Jeran Halfpap, the Intern Who Does Stuff

Using modern technology and software is a great way to keep museums in the public eye, and to engage kids with the topics. It brings the “wow!” factor to the table, and is sometimes just plain fun.

Pictured is the post-process picture of the back of the Hammond-Harwood House for use in the 3-d model. It has been distorted and photoshopped to remove the bushes and look even.

With more powerful computers, and more and more developers making new, more powerful software, the tech world is getting more advanced. Since April 2010, a new web standard called HTML5 has been brought into the mainstream. It is still being developed, but the world is starting to see more and more of it, and it is promising. It will replace HTML4 in time, and even has the potential to replace Adobe Flash, which is clunkier and slower to load. Modern web browsers, like Chrome, Firefox, and Opera are all focusing on getting HTML5 to work, to bring fancy new content to you faster! Internet Explorer will get it eventually, but it’s a bit behind the game.

With HTML5 getting more popular it is important to take advantage of the opportunities that it provides! This means updating websites and bringing our educational sites into the future. The Hammond-Harwood House has recently gotten such an update; using WebGL and a service called, we have embedded a 3-d model on our website! It took me a while, but after gathering pictures of the house and stretching them out to fit the model, you can spin and zoom into the building! With all new technologies, you might have to upgrade your software, which is usually a simple update.

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Pop Quiz

What feature, found in only a handful of 18th-century homes, does the Hammond-Harwood House share with the Warner House in Portsmouth, New Hampshire? I’ll give you a minute to think about it.

The answer is…doweled floors! Using dowels rather than nails to attach floorboards was more complicated and therefore significantly more expensive. Warner House was built in 1716 for Archibald Macpheadris and the bills from its construction still exist. Joiner John Drew charged Macpheadris 30 shillings per one hundred square feet to install the doweled floor but only 12 shillings per one hundred square feet for the rest of the floors. Unfortunately we don’t have the bills from the construction of the Hammond-Harwood House, but because of the ways the floors have worn down in the small parlor of the first floor we are able to show visitors just how they were put together. It’s a small detail, but a unique one that ties the Hammond-Harwood to some of the grandest Colonial houses in America.


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Inspired by Hammond-Harwood

By Intrepid Intern Tara Owens

Famed architect William Buckland is the man responsible for the design and details of the Hammond-Harwood House.  Buckland’s architectural style was greatly influenced by the Italian architect Andrea Palladio (1508-1580).  In fact, the Hammond-Harwood House is based on Palladio’s design for the Villa Pisani (see pictures below).

Just as Palladio served as inspiration to Buckland, so too would Buckland serve as an inspiration to future architects. The Hammond-Harwood House has come to be known as one of the finest examples of Palladian architecture in America, and as a result, was used as the template for other great American mansions.

One such house is the Vaughn Nixon house located in the area of Buckhead in Atlanta, Georgia. It was constructed in 1925-1926 and is said to have been Atlanta architect Neel Reid’s homage to the Hammond-Harwood House.

Another example of domestic architecture inspired by the Hammond-Harwood House is Marienruh, a historic fieldstone colonial revival country estate built for heiress Alice Astor, the daughter of John Jacob Astor IV.  Marienruh is situated on 100 acres overlooking the Hudson River and was constructed by renowned architect Mott B. Schmidt.

Lastly, there is the Ladew House and Gardens, built for Harvey S. Ladew circa 1929. Located in Monkton, Maryland, the Ladew House was a renovation and addition to a pre-existing frame house on the Pleasant Valley Farm owned by the Scarff family. The original structure consisted of two sections built in the last half of the eighteenth century and first half of the nineteenth century. Architect James W. O’Connor and interior decorators Billy Baldwin, Jean Levy, and Ruby Ross Wood aided Ladew in the property’s renovation. Unlike the two previously discussed houses, the Hammond-Harwood House influence does not lie in the structure’s exterior, but is found in architectural details inside. The drawing room features broken pediments and molding copied from the Hammond-Harwood House. See here for pictures of the space.


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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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Friday Photo: Architectural Details

Today we had a training session for the docents who lead our special Architecture Tours, so it seemed only appropriate to show you a picture of one of the unique architectural features on the Hammond-Harwood House. William Buckland based the design of this bull’s-eye window on a plate in James Gibbs’ A Book of Architecture.


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Mini Hammond-Harwood House

Narcissa Niblack was born in Indiana in 1882. As a young woman, she traveled extensively with her family in both the U.S. and Europe, collecting pieces of miniature furniture as she went. As an adult, she lived in Chicago with her husband James Ward Thorne but continued to travel and collect miniature items. In 1930, her collection was too extensive to be contained in her home, so she rented a studio to house it. The studio also served as the workspace for hew new project: Mrs. Thorne had decided that her miniature furniture needed miniature rooms in which to be displayed.

No one is exactly sure when or why Mrs. Thorne decided to design miniature period rooms (she may have been inspired by a shadow box she saw in an Istanbul bazaar), but she was definitely influenced by the period room craze sweeping museums in the 1920s. The theory behind period rooms was that they allowed furniture to be seen in the appropriate context, providing a richer interpretation than could be provided by just the furniture pieces themselves. Mrs. Thorne designed the miniature period rooms and supervised the work of the three dozen people who created the architectural drawings, the rooms themselves, and the pieces needed to supplement the miniature items she already owned. The first 30 rooms were exhibited in Chicago in 1932; their immense popularity inspired Mrs. Thorne to embark on an expansion of the project, the creation of another set of rooms that would show the chronology of European design on a one inch to one foot scale.

Between 1937 and 1940, Mrs. Thorne did the same with American design, creating a set of 37 American miniature period rooms. She is known to have consulted the book Furniture Treasury by Wallace Nutting, an index of important American antique furniture. This picture of the dining room of Hammond-Harwood House taken ca. 1910 is included in the book:

In all likelihood, that photograph inspired Mrs. Thorne to design this room, which is now in the collection of Thorne Rooms at The Art Institute of Chicago:

According to the book Miniature Rooms: The Thorne Rooms at The Art Institute of Chicago, Mrs. Thorne imitated the carvings and plasterwork around the fireplace, doors, and windows and on the cornice and shutters of the Hammond-Harwood House dining room. She then had miniature copies ofMaryland furniture from the Federal period made to fill the room. While a few important features of our dining room (the jib door, for example) are missing from the miniature room, it is still a tribute to the influence William Buckland’s design continued to have many years after his death.

For more photographs of the Thorne Rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago:

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Exciting Visits

Hammond-Harwood House has had a number of special visitors recently. First, the students from The Key School called on us in colonial garb so that one student, dressed as William Buckland or Matthias Hammond, could tell the class more about the architect and first owner of the House. See our Facebook album for photos.

Today, the staff of the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) was here to take photographs to add to their collection of documentation on Hammond-Harwood House. HABS is an invaluable resource on American architecture from the earliest days of the colonies into the 20th century; if you’re an architecture buff and have not seen it you are missing out. We appreciate the work of the HABS staff and can’t wait to see the new photographs added to the HABS entry on Hammond-Harwood House!

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Bird’s Eye View

The Hammond-Harwood House is a busy place since we’re preparing for tonight’s Volunteer Appreciation event, so I only have a short post for you. Check out this Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from 1885. You’ll find Hammond-Harwood House on the corner of Maryland Avenue and King George Street, right where it belongs. The interesting thing is that the wing further from King George Street has an addition on it. That addition to the house is still standing; today, it contains the office kitchen and “necessary.” But no one imagined that it dated back that far; in 1885, the House was occupied by the Harwoods, who had fallen on tough economic times after the Civil War, so it’s surprising that they had added on to the structure. So, the question is: why was the addition built? Had the Harwoods scraped together enough money to add modern plumbing? By what year did most people in Annapolis have indoor plumbing? If you have any answers, leave them in the comments!

Thanks to docent Gary Glossop for bringing the map to our attention and inspiring endless conversations about privies and plumbing amongst the staff!

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Friday Photo

Every Friday, I will upload an interesting or aesthetically pleasing picture of Hammond-Harwood House, an object in the collection, or anything else I find relevant and appealing. This week’s feature is a photograph of the house taken in 1905. You can see that not too much has changed, but there are a few small differences. For example, the doors are a different color and the roof is metal. Spot anything else? Let me know in the comments!


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