In the late 17th century, Lord Baltimore’s government granted large tracts of land on the Eastern Shore to intrepid settlers from the Old World willing to begin new lives in this undeveloped area. One tract, originally named “Hir Dir Lloyd”, consisted of 3500 acres. 200 acres of this grant on the north shore of the Choptank River were acquired by one settler, Thomas Martin, who had left his native Dorsetshire, England, for the New World. In 1663, he constructed a one-room brick house on Dividing Creek, now La Trappe Creek and christened his house “Hampden” in honor of an old friend, John Hampden. Like many houses in Colonial America, the bricks had probably been ballasts from incoming ships. Martin’s one-room house had all the comforts of home, albeit on a diminutive scale, with a corner fireplace for warmth and four hooks in the ceiling from which his bed could be pulled up to the underside of the rafters during the day.
After Martin died in 1705, “Hampden” passed to several generations of his descendants. Around 1750, the house was expanded to create a truncated “L” with a dining room in front of the original room, center hall and parlor with a fireplace at the side gable wall. Around 1840, a kitchen was constructed with a later addition to the house’s front elevation of a small room and porch.
In 1866, Hampden was bought by the Leonard family who then sold it to the Hadley family of Philadelphia in the early 1900’s. One of the Hadleys’ friends who visited them was the noted photographer Thomas Thompson Firth. He became enamored with the area and purchased another Trappe estate, “Beauvoir”. His photographs document the rise, decline and rise again of nearby “Hampden”. In 1937, Firth purchased “Hampden” and his son and his family made it their full time home and they began restoration of the house and grounds. In 2017, the Lang family became owners of “Hampden” and modified the house by making the kitchen the dining room, adding a new hall from the original one-room house past a new kitchen/breakfast area and laundry/mudroom, powder room, ending at a sumptuous primary suite. Their addition respected the 1750/1840 house form and brick material by both stepping back from the original house and cladding the addition in white lap siding.
On the day I visited, I drove along a gravel drive past a caretaker cottage and two other one-story garages and storage rooms with tall red maples lining the approach that turned into a curved drive at the front of the house. I first walked around the property that contains the original smokehouse, pool house with changing rooms/summer kitchen, in-ground pool, pier and a delightful wood polygonal structure at the water’s edge with windows and shutters creating a perfect summerhouse to catch the summer breezes off the water.
I then slowly walked up the sidewalk to admire the beauty of the 1750’s five-bay main wing with its wide front door protected by a hipped porch with benches instead of railings at each side. Two 12/12 windows with black shutters flanked the front door and three single dormer 6/6 windows projecting from the wood shake roofing spanning between the two brick chimneys at the side gable walls. The three-bay 1840’s kitchen wing telescopes down to complete the very pleasing composition of reddish brick, white trim and black shutters. I noticed how the brick changes from the English bond brick rising from the stone foundations to the water table with Flemish bond brick above that changes again to common bond at the upper part of the side gable walls.
I also admired how this house deviated slightly from Georgian symmetry with the dormer windows being equally centered in the roof instead of being aligned with the door and windows below. The rear elevation opens up to the water with a sunroom with wrap-around windows, a spacious terrace of random slate pavers off the kitchen and mudroom with a shed roof extending from the kitchen for shade and al-fresco dining and long windows and pairs of French doors in the primary suite.
The front door opens to the center entrance hall with the stairs at one side and a clear vista through the windows of the sunroom beyond. The entrance hall is beautifully detailed with wide reddish pine flooring and stair treads, white paneled wainscot around the walls and on the underside of the upper stair run and the sinuous stained wood cap of the stair that flares out at the bottom tread and gracefully curves upward as the stair makes a short “U” turn. The stair’s railing has a unique detail near the last bottom tread of a deep horizontal indention, perhaps to guide a blind or unsteady person safely to the floor.
From the entrance hall, a wide cased opening leads to the spacious parlor/living room with its focal point being the fireplace at the side wall. The original fireplace had an elliptical header to accommodate six foot long logs. The design was modified with a smaller firebox with moldings up to a high mantel that spans between two Doric columns. The original arched cupboards that flanked the fireplace are now nooks with windows to the landscape. The jambs of the windows are detailed with wood panels and the two windows overlooking the sunroom have window seats with cushions. The paneled walls are a light apricot yellow as a serene backdrop for the furnishings in shades of olive green, gold, touches of red and blue that combine to create a room in which one could easily linger.
I could also linger in the sunroom with its exposed wood rafters and decking painted bright white, stone flooring with a sisal rug anchoring the deep green rattan seating with bold floral patterned upholstery. Two ottomans in a trio of colorful patterns provide extra seating for using the binoculars to search for waterfowl. Off the entrance hall is original dining room which is now a smaller parlor with a corner fireplace, bright red wallpaper and two loveseats perpendicular to the fireplace for easy flow to the adjoining rooms of the study (the house’s original one-room) and dining room. The cozy study ceiling of dark stained rafters and decking still has the four hooks that Thomas Martin used to raise and lower the bed of his original one-room house!
The original kitchen was transformed into an elegant dining room with the exposed rafters and decking painted white with walls of deep salmon. This is a room for family celebrations or entertaining with a long wood oval table and wood chairs with upholstered seats. The original oversized doors at the front and rear of the room have wide vertical boards in a diagonal pattern with black hand forged hinges and hardware. The new kitchen introduces the most recent modifications to the house and I loved the color palette of wood floors, white Shaker cabinets, white tile backsplash and stainless steel appliances. The tiles have hand painted blue designs of animals, birds and crabs that I later realized were the work of a family member when I saw the artist’s studio upstairs. The kitchen is open to the breakfast area by the windows to the terrace opposite a wall of base cabinets and glass fronted upper cabinets for a bar/buffet area for parties.
The hall between dining room and kitchen has an original exterior wall of brick now painted white for reflectance with chests and tables for family photographs and memorabilia. A cased opening leads to another hall that is a foyer for the service areas of powder room and mud room at the rear wall with another exterior door. The brick floors, white cabinets, hall tree for boots and jackets is a must for active families and pets. The last cased opening leads to a stair to the second floor suite, laundry and the primary suite.
The primary suite’s short hall leads to a waterside room divided into a sitting room and an office area joined together by the painted wood coffered ceiling. The sitting area has a fireplace between floor to ceiling millwork with a side wall for a TV. Long windows and a pair of French doors lead to steps down the lawn and landscape. Double doors lead to the primary bedroom at the corner of the addition with side windows and a rear wall with a pair of French doors between single windows for sunlight throughout the day. Serene colors of peach and rose create a restful retreat. His and hers full baths and separate walk-in closets complete this sumptuous suite.
If I were lucky to be a guest, it would be difficult to choose among the two bedrooms in the main wing or the private ensuite over the primary suite’s sitting room. One guest room is located over part of the parlor and has a fireplace surrounded by paneling flanked by single windows. The front dormer window is above an antique chest and two antique wood beds with crisp white linens. Across the stair hall opposite the full bath is another bedroom with wood spindle beds and blue and white bed linens next to the fireplace. As charming as these suites are, I would probably choose the cozy bedroom with its own staircase, bath, wood pencil post bed frame and single dormer windows at both the front and rear walls for sunlight.
Whether you believe this is the oldest brick residence in Talbot County or it dates from 1720, as an architect, I believe it is an outstanding example of early Georgian architecture. Its setting on a peninsula of 24 acres over two parcels on tranquil Sawmill Cove with its West/Southwest exposure leading to La Trappe Creek, a proven waterfowl staging area on the sheltered waters of Sawmill Cove, is unique. Several families have lovingly cared for “Hampden” and the next owner will be a steward to preserve this picturesque historic property for the next generation.
For information about this property contact Coard Benson with Benson & Mangold Real Estate at 410-770-9255 (o), 410-310-4909 (c) or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more pictures and pricing, visit https://www.coardbenson.com/,“Equal Housing Opportunity”.
Photography by Broadview Interactive LLC
The author is indebted to the descendants of Thomas Martin and owners of Hampden who compiled the book “Hampden” with assistance from The Maryland Room, Talbot County Library and The Talbot County Historical Society in order to share the story of this remarkable house.
Spy House of the Week is an ongoing series that selects a different home each week. The Spy’s Habitat editor Jennifer Martella makes these selections based exclusively on her experience as a architect.
Jennifer Martella has pursued her dual careers in architecture and real estate since she moved to the Eastern Shore in 2004. Her award winning work has ranged from revitalization projects to a collaboration with the Maya Lin Studio for the Children’s Defense Fund’s corporate retreat in her home state of Tennessee.