Letters to New Kent County – Installment 11

Friends 

This installment will cover our progress on a property you have heard about once or twice in these updates.  Hampstead is one of the Commonwealth’s most ambitious Greek Revival residences.  Likewise, it is our most ambitious project with regards to scale, historical significance and scope of restoration.  The Tidewater and Big Bend Foundation is only the third owner of the property.  Through subsequent purchases we have been able to unit almost 1,000 acres of Hampstead’s original grounds.  

Our charge for the last two years has been to retrofit modern systems into this structure and repair centuries of water, wind and insect damage.  Happily, the majority of the interior and exterior historical fabric have survived some 200 years since its construction in 1825.  This longevity is a testament to the architects, tradesman, laborer and enslaved workers that constructed the residence.

One of the most impressive features of the structure is its floating elliptical stair that reaches four stories from the cellar to the attic.  In addition, the interior is ornamented with hand-carved millwork throughout.  Recently completed historical paint analysis suggests that much, if not all, of this woodwork was grained – a meticulous process wherein a skilled painter decorates finished surfaces to emulate natural woodgrain of various colors.  This ornate attention to detail is exhibited on the exterior of the structure in its immense columns, pediments, pilasters and entablature. 

Recent archeological work has identified several slate-roofed structures on the site that predate Hampstead.  These 18thCentury structures would have served the previous owner and were probably used during the construction of Hampstead and demolished shortly after. There are a number of standing outbuildings on the property including a historical farm office, the ruins of an early granary and a mostly intact icehouse of massive proportions.

Rehabilitation work is well underway.  We expect to complete the main house and dependencies by the end of summer. We are already engaged in the significant undertaking of acquiring historical furniture, art and artifacts to display in the property.  One such piece of art is Death of Seneca.  This seven-foot-tall oil painting was found in the Hampstead’s attic and is being carefully restored.  Gardens and additional structures will follow in subsequent phases. 

We hope to share Hampstead with you in the very near future either through a tour, stay or event.

John Poindexter

New Kent County

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