Hampstead was built in 1825 for the wealthy planter Conrade Webb. One of the Commonwealth’s most ambitious Greek Revival residences, Hampstead retains a significant amount of interior and exterior building materials and details. The grand dwelling features many elements adapted from Asher Benjamin’s American Builder’s Companion (1806), an important book containing meticulous etchings of Greek Revival architectural details used by architects and builders throughout the new nation. Of particular note is the open, elliptical stair that climbs from cellar to attic. While Hampstead’s architect has not been identified, the house has many parallels to works by John Holden Greene of Providence, Rhode Island. Webb attended Brown University and could well have sought assistance from Providence’s leading architect to carry out such a singular undertaking.
Hampstead was listed in the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.
New Kent County, Virginia
Built around 1825
Acquired in December 2021
Situated on 431 acres
Restoration to begin mid-2022
Architecture and Site
Outbuildings at Hampstead include an early 19th-century office, a 19th-century agricultural building, an early 19th-century icehouse, the ruins of an early 19th-century brick granary and the chimney of an early 19th-century kitchen that was later augmented for use as a landscape folly. The grounds at Hampstead feature extensive terraforming and terracing. The house itself is sited on a terrace, and broad terracing to the west and south was installed in the early 19th century to situate dependencies, including enslaved workers’ housing, support buildings for farming operations and a series of formal gardens. To the north, between Hampstead and the Pamunkey River, are earthen ramps that descend to the valley floor, which were planted with specimen trees to form a park. To the south, on level ground, specimen trees were planted to create a park at the entrance to the residence. Archeological work is in the planning stages to identify lost dependent buildings and to better understand the cultural landscape at Hampstead.
The residence is located at the northwest extreme of New Kent County, south of Old Church Road. The nearby woodline bordering the Pamunkey River is visible to the north from the precipitous ridgeline upon which the building sits.
Hampstead was one of several Webb family properties in New Kent County. Already a substantial farm by the late 18th century, it became one of the most considerable agricultural properties in antebellum Virginia.
George Webb, Sr. achieved colony-wide acclaim and historical importance as the author of The Office and Authority of a Justice of the Peace, known as “Webb’s Justice.” George Webb, Sr. passed his land holdings to his son, George Webb, Jr., who became a member of the New Kent Committee of Safety in 1775 and a Naval Commissioner in the same year. Webb, Jr. became treasurer of the Commonwealth in 1778 and held other offices of prominence. He had 10 children, the first of whom was Conrade Webb – Hampstead’s founder. The Webb family continued to be prominent in Virginia society and politics until the death of Conrade in 1842. Conrade (1778-1842), a man of trained intellect (bachelor’s and master’s from Brown University) and an experienced planter, developed Hampstead into a significant plantation.
During the 1820s, after acquiring substantial additional capital by marriage, Webb undertook to build his great house on a high bluff overlooking the Pamunkey River. Webb’s dynastic ambitions died with him in 1842, his children having preceded him to the grave. Hampstead descended to various relatives, passing out of the family in 1889. Hampstead fell into decline in the years after the Civil War. It was purchased at the end of the 19th century by the Wallace family, two generations of which were architects. Around 1900, Hampstead underwent a careful restoration; presciently, a series of circa 1900 window seats enclosed what appears to be original (or at least early) grained and marbleized casework, which will be invaluable guides to interior finishes during the restoration of Hampstead. The Wallace family owned Hampstead until 2021.