The Hammond-Harwood House was built for the 25-year-old tobacco planter Matthias Hammond of Anne Arundel County, Maryland. The young Hammond had inherited not only a great deal of money but also a keen business sense. Indeed, Hammond managed to accrue more and more real estate while still successfully managing his various tobacco plantations. In April of 1773, Matthias Hammond was selected as a member of the vestry of St. Anne’s Parish and in May of the same year he was elected to represent the City of Annapolis as a delegate to the Maryland General Assembly.
Matthias Hammond began building the house in the spring of 1774. At that time, Annapolis was the prosperous hub of political power in the Province of Maryland. Wealth from tobacco provided a steady market for the imported luxury goods stocked by local merchants. The years 1763 to 1774 have been referred to as the Golden Age of Annapolis because political power acted as a magnet for the wealthy planters who came to town bringing a profound desire for sophisticated society, stylish architecture and a ravenous appetite for imported luxury goods.
The house was built on a large square site composed of 4 square lots, which Hammond bought in September of 1772 (lots 92 and 105) and March of 1774 (lots 91 and 106). The site was approximately 4 acres. The house was built on the highest point and the remaining land sloped gently toward the water. Presently, this plot of land can be described as bounded on three sides by Maryland Avenue, King George Street and Prince George Street with the Wm. Paca House garden as the final side of the square.
40-year-old English architect William Buckland was chosen to design the house. He had been trained as a joiner in London and had worked in Virginia as an architect/joiner/designer since 1755. To his credit were the interiors at George Mason’s, Gunston Hall (1755-1759) in Prince William County, Va., John Tayloe’s, Mt. Airy (1761-1763) in Richmond County, Va. and Edward Lloyd IV’s, Chase-Lloyd house (1771-1773) in Annapolis. By 1772, Buckland was referring to himself in legal documents as an "architect". Unfortunately, Buckland would die in December of 1774 at the age of forty.
Construction probably continued at a normal pace until the beginning of the American Revolution in 1776. Wartime problems almost certainly slowed the finishing work making a definite completion date difficult to ascertain. Whether Matthias Hammond ever lived in his grand house is a mystery. He did, however, rent a portion of the residence to local lawyer Jeremiah Townley Chase in 1779. This rental would begin the Chase family's long connection to the house. There were other great Annapolitans to live in the stately structure. The Pinkney family resided in the house in 1811 when David B. Warden noted that the Hammond House is "a large Elegant house, with a garden, belonging to Mr. Pinkney, [and] is offered for four thousand three hundred Dollars." The Pinkney family moved from the house shortly thereafter only to open the door for another generation of Chases to call the place home. The death of Jeremiah Townley Chase’s great-granddaughter Hester Ann Harwood would eventually end the Chase-Loockerman-Harwood occupation of the site--145 years later .
It was after Hester Ann's death that the house and its contents went up for auction. In 1926, the nearby St. John's College purchased the house for $47,000. In the time that the college owned the site, the Harwood House was a kind of decorative arts classroom. At one point, the house even became a college fraternity house. Ultimately, it was the Great Depression that forced the college to abandon the 1774 house. In 1938, a group known as the Federated Garden Clubs of Maryland began renting the house from the College and later actually purchased the house and its surrounding property. In 1940, the Hammond-Harwood House Association was formed--the entity that still manages the site today.
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